Last week, the Tennessean reported that Nashville’s school board wants to keep student contact information to themselves and away from public charter schools. Nevermind the fact that public charter schools are PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and should have the same kind of access other public schools get. Not allowing public charter schools to have the contact info needed to reach out to families is against the law.
The school board claims their proposal is all about protecting student data (there’s also a law for that), but they know very well that charter schools can (and do) use the information to market to parents, and that scares them. The optics suggest traditional public schools are afraid they can’t compete.
The Nashville school board’s argument of protecting student information would be believable were it not for a number of charter school annihilation tactics recently deployed. Just saying.
To the west, Shelby County Schools (SCS) is a step ahead of Nashville in the student information sharing showdown. Superintendent of schools Dorsey Hopson has already declined a request for student information from Green Dot Schools, a charter management organization with five schools in Memphis. The student information battle stems from Shelby County accusing the Achievement School District of passing along student information to parent group The Memphis Lift for their parent outreach efforts. (Full disclosure: I am 100% on the side of parents who pose a threat to education as-is.)
Enter Commissioner Candice McQueen
Apparently, state law trumps board policy and a superintendent’s (or board member’s) hurt feelings. As a former district employee, state law wasn’t always my friend but respected it because bad things happen when you break the law (see how state responds by withholding $3.4m from MNPS in 2012).
So, in response to Memphis’ insubordination, the Commish sends Superintendent Hopson a little reminder (3-page letter) about the law that rejects his rejection. The Tennessee High Quality Charter Schools Act is considered moderately strong legislation in the charter world, but in this instance, the law aggressively protects charter schools from anti-charter school boards and school leaders.
Basically, the law says any charter school that has been approved to open at least one school should get “at no cost a list of student names, ages, addresses, dates of attendance, and grade levels completed…” Once they get it, charter schools can’t share it with anyone outside school leadership unless they get permission from the parent.
And to make sure the message is clear, the letter to Hopson ends with, “The commissioner of education is required by state law to see that the school laws and the regulations of the state board of education are faithfully executed. TDOE directs SCS to immediately comply…”
Clear? Crystal. (h/t to Colonel Jessup and Lt. Kaffee)
We know how this ends, Nashville, let’s not go there — again.