Standing Together for Strong Community Schools

Tennesseans invested in local public education.


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

TREE-logo-spelledoutwtag

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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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.


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


What’s the latest news on the state charter authorizer bill?

Unfortunately, HB702/SB830 continues its winding path through the legislature. Last week, the House finance subcommittee discussed a further amendment which would apply the state-appointed charter authorizer panel to just 5 counties – Knox, Hamilton, Hardeman, Davidson, and Shelby. After legislators raised concerns about “checkerboard legislation” and turning some counties into “guinea pigs,” they adjourned. This amendment will presumably be considered by the subcommittee again this Wednesday. A Nashville reporter tweeted that after the meeting, there was a “pow-wow” and “lots of whispering” between the bill sponsor and the head of the Tennessee Charter Schools Association. Here is the latest:

http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303270171

The Metro Nashville Public Schools board has called a special meeting Monday (April 1st) at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the financial impact of this bill on MNPS schools and taxpayers. The board chair invited State Education Commissioner Huffman, who has objected to any financial protections for districts being placed in the bill, to attend the meeting. Huffman has refused to attend and discuss his position or the local board’s concerns about the pending legislation.

Commissioner Refuses Meeting
http://nashvillecitypaper.com/content/city-news/state-ed-commissioner-refuses-meeting-mnps-over-charter-authorizer-bill

Huffman Rejects Invite
http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303290082

Remember, this bill still has hurdles it must clear before it could become law, and we still need to be vocal in opposing it! PLEASE call your legislators and tell them to vote against this unfunded mandate that could create huge deficits for public school districts. A personal email has a huge impact at this stage when you voice your opposition to this bill and your support for local control and local decisions for schools in your community. Please email the members of the House Finance subcommittee and ask them to oppose HB702. Email addresses for you to cut and paste:

rep.mike.harrison@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.alexander@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.armstrong@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.lois.deberry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.hawk@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gary.odom@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dennis.roach@capitol.tn.gov, rep.charles.sargent@capitol.tn.gov

And if you haven’t already, please sign the petition opposing HB702/SB830:

ST4SCS will continue to watch this bill and as parents and public school advocates we will express disapproval. Thank you for your support.
Read more about why a state-level charter authorizer is bad for school districts and why defeating this legislation matters.


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Amended Authorizer Bill Goes State-wide

CALL TO ACTION: Sign the NEW petition on the amended state-wide authorizer bill that will affect all counties in Tennessee. Respect Local Control: Stop the State Charter School Authorizer HB702/SB830. 

When you sign the petition you will be urging opposition of the Bill HB 702/SB830, which would allow a newly appointed panel to override our locally elected school boards’ decisions regarding charter schools and then cut local boards of education out of the oversight of those schools. A state-level charter authorizer would increase the reach of state government into local affairs and create additional bureaucracy. We want decisions about opening and funding schools in our district to be made by our local officials, elected by our local citizens, who understand the needs of our unique communities. Please respect the rights of local voters to shape the direction of their community’s schools and vote NO on HB 702/SB830.

By signing this you can automatically send an email to the entire Tennessee Legislature and ask them respectfully to vote no.

SIGN HERE.

Read about the  issues:

Local Schools, Local Decisions

State Legislature Could Move Local School Funds

Williamson School Chief Warns That Charters, Vouchers Could Lower Home Values
Tennessean

Bill That Would Create State Authorizer for Charter Schools Advances
Knox News

This bill has NO cap on how many charters the state may approve and districts will be responsible for funding all charter schools approved by the appointed panel. Sign the petition and ask your legislators to respect local control and vote no on the authorizer panel.

Thank you for supporting Tennessee Public Schools.


Big $$ Thrown at Parent Choice Between “Opportunity” and Food.

If the purpose of vouchers is to close the achievement gap by increasing achievement and improving long term success for the lowest performing students then why does this plan put these children, who are provided food in their zoned schools, at risk of going hungry? Even more alarming, nearly a million dollars has been spent already to advertise for vouchers. PR for a bill still in committee? We feel this is more of an indication that vouchers will be used for private gain, not to help children.

Read More
American Federation for Children is spending $800,000 on broadcast television for vouchers.
The Tennessean

Voucher Debate Heats Up with $800K Ad Buy
TN Ed Report

Please help us.
Join us tomorrow on the hill, Tuesday March 5th for the House Education Committee meeting at Legislative Plaza, room 16 at 12 PM. They will be hearing the charter authorizer bill and voucher bill (with a likely amendment to expand the program) and we need as many people there as possible. We had a great turnout at the Education Committee meeting on February 19th–we need to fill the room with concerned constituents! As parents, business owners, community members, educators and public school advocates we ARE making a difference and our voices are being heard so let’s show up in force at Tuesday’s meeting.

If you have not done so already, please contact the committee members (copy and paste email addresses below to send your message) or sign our petitions (see links below). Call Governor Haslam’s office (615) 741-2001 to tell him you do not agree with vouchers. Also contact Beth Harwell’s (615) 741-0709 office to express your objection for a State Charter Authorizer as that will be up for vote on Tuesday.

bill.haslam@tn.gov, speaker.beth.harwell@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.Harry.Brooks@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.John.DeBerry@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.Joe.Pitts@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.Harold.Love@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.John.Forgety@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.Roger.Kane@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.Debra.Moody@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.Dawn.White@capitol.tn.gov, Rep.Mark.White@capitol.tn.gov.

Petition Against Charter Authorizer

Petition Against Vouchers