Standing Together for Strong Community Schools

Tennesseans invested in local public education.


Join Us. We Are Ready to Advocate for Public Education in 2014.

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The Tennessee General Assembly is back in session for 2014 and education legislation is front and center affecting all Tennesseans. We are back and ready to get to work educating legislators, parents, and citizens across the state about the dire consequences of legislation, pushed by special interest groups, that will negatively impact our public schools, teachers and tax dollars. We will also be sharing legislation that will help public education and return the parent and teacher voice to decision making. We have been quietly building our state network over the last half of 2013 and are looking to begin a new initiative. More and more people across Tennessee are speaking out against mismanaged, underfunded reform mandates.

So to renew our focus and bring commitment to a larger group of state-wide activists we have joined under a non-profit called Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence or TREE. We hope you will continue to support our effort to speak for public school parents, teachers and advocates. Please follow TREE as we work with the General Assembly to help educate on the perspective of the real impact on public school reform.

TREE has a broader focus beyond the state authorizer and voucher bills that ST4SCS focused on last year. Read about that focus HERE. We will also be sharing our email list with TREE and this ST4SCS site will stand as a reference point. We will begin putting our volunteer energy into TREE’s message. We look forward to working with TREE and all Tennesseans to be a voice that is “ROOTED IN FIGHTING FOR STRONG, EQUITABLE PUBLIC EDUCATION AND IS COMMITTED TO GROWING CHILD-CENTERED EDUCATION POLICY.”

Thank you for supporting us and encouraging us to grow our effort.

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TODAY Dec 9th, Take Action to Reclaim Public Edu

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TODAY, Monday, December 9 has been designated as a NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION.  Events are being held in cities across the country to promote and protect the core values of public education.  While no “live” events are planned for Tennessee, Tennesseans can still take action online and continue to inform ourselves about issues affecting our schools.  You can learn more about today’s national effort

 http://www.reclaimpublicednow.org/principles

and sign the petition to show your support

http://www.reclaimpublicednow.org/action

The petition will then give you an opportunity to email your elected officials about where you stand on supporting public education. This is an important, powerful step to share your voice. Your elected officials will only feel compelled to question changes in policy and vote against the corporate public school strategy if YOU, the voter, tell them what you want for public school children. By entering your address, the petition will auto-fill your representatives for email.

Another way you can act to spread the word about strengthening public education is to share this post on all YOUR social media (your Facebook page, twitter account, email) and encourage others to follow Standing Together for Strong Community Schools and learn more about education in Tennessee and across the nation!  Spread the word!

Follow  #ReclaimPublicEd on Twitter
Follow National Opportunity to Learn Campaign on Facebook.

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Parent Advocates Ask Nashville to Plan Ahead

broad-school-closingLike the rest of the nation, we’ve been watching the education train wreck playing out in Chicago and Philadelphia.  We are holding our breath as similar scenarios loom for Tennessee cities like Memphis and Nashville.

Memphis is in the middle of a less than smooth merging of school districts with Shelby County, borne out of financial necessity as the Memphis district was facing a staggering budget shortfall.  Now in Nashville, as the costs for charters is rapidly increasing and outpacing the available revenue, the supporters of charter expansion are using new buzzwords “high quality seat”.  What seems to be following those buzzwords is usually something along the lines of “closing down schools” to make room for the charters that will provide the yet to be defined “HQ seat”.

As we hear these “reformers” nonchalantly toss around the idea of closing our public schools, a few questions come to mind.  If you share our concern for all the students in Nashville who are at the center of the current storm, you might also want to hear these “reformers” answer the following questions:

  • What is the 10 year plan for large urban districts like Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville?  What does that plan look like for suburban and rural districts?
  • What will the ratio of charter and traditional schools be in urban, suburban, and rural districts?
  • What metrics will be used to determine which traditional schools are closed? Shouldn’t we hear from the families and communities that would be affected by such closures?
  • When a child’s zoned school is closed, what are the options for a parent who does not want their child to attend a nearby charter school with extended hours and/or school on weekends?  Where will those students go and how will they get there?
  • How will districts pay for increased costs for busing students as neighborhood schools close?
  • Currently, students who are English Language Learners or who are moderately to severely disabled are not served to any significant level at charter schools in TN.  Where will they go to school if their zoned school is closed?  Will such students, who require a higher level of investment, be isolated?  Or will they be educated alongside their peers in charter schools, as they are now in traditional schools?
  • If a child is counseled out or forced out of a charter, what options do they have if their zoned school is closed?

These are some of the many questions that must be answered by those that believe, and have stated, that we need to start closing existing schools to finance charter schools.  The education of our children can not be based on a blithe assumption that “market forces” will sort everything out.  The voters and families of this town have the right to decide whether the “reform” vision is the one we want. Tennesseans, especially those in Nashville, need a truthful picture with specifics of what that vision is before that decision is meaningful or even possible.  If you come across anyone that is willing to answer these questions please send us their responses.

This is more than just about money.  It is about planning for the district’s future.  If you believe Nashville needs to answer these questions before approving any more charters please call your city council rep.

Read about the Charter Moratorium Proposed by City Council Rep. Steve Glover.

Read about School Board Rep. Will Pinkston’s MNPS Budget Concerns.

Find your Nashville Council Representative.


Summer Hot List on TN School Reform

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Here is your summer reading list that includes the summer’s latest state and national news that impacts your schools and communities. Please be on the lookout for a new section on this blog called “Around the State”. It will  feature guest posts from statewide advocates that address specific, local issues and describe the effects of reform–good and bad–at the school district level.

TN CHARTER NEWS

A Look at Charter Attrition Rates: TN ED Report

Outrage among parents and teachers ensued after WSMV and The City Paper ran stories on charter schools losing “struggling students” to zoned schools just prior to  TCAP exams.

New 2013 CREDO Study Shows Tennessee Charter Schools Doing Very Well : The Tennessean
ST4SCS Comment: If our current charters are doing so well under our current charter authorization system, why do we need a state charter authorizer?

Looking at CREDO Study of Charter School Impact by Student Group:  Salon
Charter School quality is all over the map when it comes to serving student subgroups: “In general a strategy of letting a thousand flowers bloom only really works if you then cut down the flowers that turn out to be really ugly and then let the better ones replicate. Some states do that and others don’t.”

Your BEST and BRIGHTEST Charter Schools in Tennessee.: Achievement School District

Charter School Bedfellows : Schooling Memphis.
“We know that signing on with some ed reform policies can make for strange political bedfellows…

The Gutting of Local Control has begun by StudentsFirst  - Your vote does not matter on education issues and StudentsFirst will pay to make sure that is so. Too bad StudentsFirst doesn’t spend all that money on students, first.

TCSA Statement in Support of New Nashville Charter Approvals

 

MOVEMENT TO OUST HUFFMAN

Flurry of Huffman-Ousting Facebook Pages, petition, phone call blitz and governor’s non-response.

https://www.facebook.com/RemoveKevinHuffman

Commissioner Huffman Has to Go

https://www.facebook.com/TdoeCommissionerKevinHuffmanHasToGo

Petition: Stop hurting our schools: Remove Kevin Huffman as the appointed TN Commissioner of Education

–Call-In Blitz: http://www.mommabears.org/1/post/2013/07/momma-bear-call-to-action-let-your-growls-be-heard.html

Haslam stands by beleaguered education chief: The Tennessean

News asked Governor Bill Haslam about the complaints against his commissioner.: Fox 17

Gov. Bill Haslam today offered up a staunch defense of his education commissioner.: Commercial Appeal

TEACHERS COMPENSATION – MASTERS DEGREE NOT WORTH MORE

State’s Treatment of Teachers is a Recipe of Disaster: The Tennesseean
ST4SCS Comment: Sure you saw this one already. It has been shared over 9,000 on Facebook.

Up with teachers, out with Pearson: Times Free Press
“When teachers speak, we ought to listen. Here’s what I’m hearing from local educators…”

NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

Blueberries: Jamie Vollmer
“If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!”

Louisiana Voucher Students Score Almost 30 Points Below Average on LEAP Tests.

Louisiana is walling off schoolchildren from each other: Robert Mann

National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

Reforming Michelle Rhee Running the show in D.C. didn’t work out. Now in Tennessee, she’s hoping cash is king.: The New Republic (With a Little ST4SCS mention)

New Shifts in Rhetoric as Education Reformers Come to Rule the Roost: The New Republic
ST4SCS comment: Interesting how perspectives can change when someone actually spends time in a classroom.

Is Michelle Rhee buying Tennessee?: GoPublicSchool.com

The world’s most famous teacher blasts school reform -Washington Post


1 Comment

Momma Bear and West TN Moms Stand Up to Haslam

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There is significant backlash against education “reform” developing around the state, including West Tennessee. A West TN public school mother, known as “Momma Bear”, recently wrote a letter to Governor Haslam, notifying him of her concerns with “reform” and a petition she recently launched. We are posting her letter to Governor Haslam as part of a new blog topic series focusing on voices from around the state. While ST4SCS advocates for local control of education policies, we are expanding our blog coverage to include at-large issues that are linked to local control. We strongly feel that points of view from across our great state need to be highlighted. Would you like your voice to be heard? Contact us at info@strongcommunityschools.com.

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I’m Momma Bear, a parent in TN and this is the email I sent to Governor Haslam.
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Dear Governor Haslam,

I voted for you because I believed in you. Now, I’m not so sure.

The more I find out about education “reform,” the more I see how billionaires are changing our public schools for the worse:

…with each new charter school I see popping up where a neighborhood school should be fully funded and thriving,
…with every report of Charter Schools: achievement rates (at the expense of students being kicked out to public schools for low test scores), corruption with money, discriminating against students, being operated by non-Americans (Gulen Charter schools), etc.
…with every teacher lost to the profession because they were unappreciated or offered a job that pays much more,
…with every minute wasted on Standardized Testing and stressing our students,
…with every teacher stressed over how her students will score on Standardized Testing because it will affect her employment,
…with every dollar paid to testing companies that could be spent funding classrooms,
…with every teacher that spends out of her own paycheck to buy supplies for her students,
…with the student TEI “Tripod” surveys that were given to our children, without parental consent, that asked personal questions about our homes, our TVs, their parent’s education, etc.
…with every unqualified, inexperienced Teach For America person that is put in a classroom with poor students who deserve an experienced, qualifed educator,
…with forcing our kids to Race to the Top of nowhere for money,
…and now with the Common Core being forced upon us…

I’m just not so sure anymore that I made the best vote for Governor. I think you’ve been bought out by your rich buddies. I think you’ve been fed a pail of hogwash with this education reform movement. You have lost touch with those that voted you into this office.

When I heard that the minimum salary ranges for teachers had been approved last week, that was the last straw for this Momma Bear. I started a petition on change.org to demand that you to get rid of Kevin Huffman. I’m sure it made a rotten Monday for you to find those in your email inbox. Well, it was a rotten weekend for those who are in college wanting to be teachers knowing they’ll never make what they deserve in TN. It has been a rotten decade for teachers and for students. Their morale is worn, and they are afraid of the future. I had to speak up and do something, and I’m glad I did because…

In less than 24 hours over 300 people have signed it from across the State of Tennessee. Some are teachers and some are parents, but all are FED UP with our schools being “reformed” by those who have no vesting in TN public education, no children in the public school systems, no qualified experience in classrooms, and no business telling teachers and educators how to do their jobs. We’re fed up. Do you hear us???

We’re demanding that you listen to teachers and parents, and NOT Students First, NOT Stand For Children, NOT Achieve, NOT ALEC, NOT Teach for America, NOT The New Teacher Project, NOT Education Pioneers, NOT Charter School Vultures, NOT Bill Gates, NOT Sam Walton, NOT Eli Broad, NOT Michelle Rhee, and NOT any other “non-profit” education reform group. It is imperative that you listen to your voters, and represent us, or we will elect a candidate who will in 2014.

Sincerely,

a Momma Bear in TN

Reposted by ST4SCS with permission.

Photo Credit: National Geographic


State Authorizer and Vouchers Are Dead. Standing Together We Made a Difference.

We are very happy to report that after a considerable roller coaster ride, the 2013 Tennessee legislation session closed without the passage of the two bills that were the main focus for our group, a voucher program and a state charter authorizer.  This is wonderful news for Tennessee students and communities.

Your willingness to speak up and contact your legislators had a big impact on the progression of these bills and their ultimate failure.  Every call you made and email you sent expressing your desire to maintain local control and public funding for public schools made a difference.  Thank you for joining us in our commitment to strong community schools.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to all the legislators that stood with us and opposed these two bills with conviction.  We will continue to work with legislators and everyone involved to foster and promote quality schools.  We intend to keep this blog and our Facebook page up and running to share news and discussion of education issues and legislation in the state of Tennessee. We invite you to stay tuned, keep sharing your input, and move forward with us toward the goal of improving education for every student in Tennessee!


Stop Charter Authorizer Bill Being Pushed Through Committees

Tomorrow, Tuesday April 9, the House Finance Committee will consider the state charter authorizer bill, HB702. The bill creates a new unelected panel with authority to overrule local boards of education regarding what schools to open and fund. Its decisions would mandate local tax dollars to fund these schools. There is no limit on the number of schools or dollars that the panel could obligate a community to fund out of its public schools budget. The negative impact of unchecked and unplanned charter school growth on a community’s schools budget and district schools is not hypothetical. It is playing out across the country, and Tennessee need not make these same mistakes. 

In a major change from current law, HB702 allows your local elected school board NO oversight over the charter schools the panel approves. Charter school applicants would not have to worry about accountability to local officials if they believe a more lenient state panel could approve and oversee them, resulting in “venue shopping,” approval of lower quality schools, and less accountability. Although the bill has been amended to apply to only 5 counties currently (Knox, Hamilton, Davidson, Shelby, and Hardeman) the advocates for this power grab will not stop with these five counties. This bill would open a door that special interests would be back again and again to expand, with a goal of being able to override local citizen control in every community across the state. And with charter companies now trying to push through FOR PROFIT charter schools in Tennessee, we must pay close attention to the vision these folks have for our public schools and the direction in which they are pushing our state.

The House Finance Committee meeting is one of the last big hurdles for HB702. Please speak up now to oppose this bill. If you are able to attend the committee meeting at 10 am on Tuesday, legislative plaza room 16, please join us. If possible, wear red. Parking is sometimes available at meters on the street, and also at a large pay parking garage at Deaderick and 3rd Avenue. Please email your own legislators, as well as the members of the House and Senate Finance Committees TODAY! Committee member email addresses are below, so you can cut and paste into one email.

Thanks for all your efforts to protect our public schools and students this year. We were all thrilled when Gov. Haslam withdrew his voucher proposal, and now is the time to step up our efforts.

EMAIL your disapproval TODAY with a COPY/PASTE.

rep.charles.sargent@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.alexander@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.armstrong@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kent.calfee@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.carter@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barbara.cooper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.lois.deberry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.hall@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.harrison@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.hawk@capitol.tn.gov, rep.matthew.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.johnson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.larry.miller@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gary.odom@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dennis.roach@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov, sen.randy.mcnally@capitol.tn.gov, sen.douglas.henry@capitol.tn.gov, sen.bo.watson@capitol.tn.gov, sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov, sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.gov, sen.lowe.finney@capitol.tn.gov, sen.ferrell.haile@capitol.tn.gov, sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov, sen.bill.ketron@capitol.tn.gov, sen.jim.kyle@capitol.tn.gov, sen.mark.norris@capitol.tn.gov

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