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.


Summer Hot List on TN School Reform

greaterthanaverage

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


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


Senator Gresham Cloaks Voucher Legislation in Driver’s Ed Bill

The Senate Education Committee will be meeting this Wednesday at 3:30 PM (revised date/time posted 3/18/13 at 12:06 PM) and will be reviewing Senator Delores Gresham’s expanded voucher amendment that she is attempting to link to a Driver’s Education bill (SB1358). Her amendment will make vouchers available to many more children in Tennessee, including those who are not in failing schools and do not receive free and reduced lunch. The limited voucher bill endorsed by Governor Haslam is also going to be heard at this meeting (SB196).

If you are the constituent of one of these representatives, please let him/her know you are opposed to public funds being given to unaccountable, private schools/companies. Private schools that accept vouchers are not required to provide transportation, special education services, or English Language support.  Many of these schools also have admission policies that exclude children who have not met specific academic goals, which means that many children in “failing” schools will not be able to get into private, voucher schools. This bill will, therefore, likely serve children who are already doing well academically and don’t necessarily “need” to go to a voucher school in the first place. Please see the below list for the members of the Senate Education Committee and take 5 minutes to contact your senator. If you do not know who your senator is, go to http://www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators/ and enter your address in the “Find My Legislator” text boxes at the top of the page. Thank you for your support of public education!

 For Reference: the TN Senate Education Committee 2013

Name

District

Phone

Email

Dolores Gresham * 26, Somerville 615-741-2368 sen.dolores.gresham@capitol.tn.gov
Reginald Tate ** 33, Memphis 615-741-2509 sen.reginald.tate@capitol.tn.gov
Steve Dickerson ** 20, Nashville 615-741-6679 sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.gov
Charlotte Burks 15, Monterey 615-741-3978 sen.charlotte.burks@capitol.tn.gov
Stacey Campfield 7, Knoxville 615-741-1766 sen.stacey.campfield@capitol.tn.gov
Rusty Crowe 3, Johnson City 615-741-2468 sen.rusty.crowe@capitol.tn.gov
Todd Gardenhire 10, Chattanooga 615-741-6682 sen.todd.gardenhire@capitol.tn.gov
Joey Hensley 28, Hohenwald 615-741-3100 sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov
Brian Kelsey 31, Germantown 615-741-3036 sen.brian.kelsey@capitol.tn.gov
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FOLLOW UP ON THE CHARTER AUTHORIZER 

Fiscal Impact Of Charter School Authorizer HB702 Reviewed Wednesday 

The House Finance, Ways, & Means subcommittee will be meeting this Wednesday at 10:30 AM (revised time posted at 3-18-13 – 11:23 am) to discuss the State Charter Authorizer Bill (HB702). The members of the full committee are as follows: Charles Sargent, David Alexander, Joe Armstrong, Kevin Brooks, Kent Calfee, Mike Carter, Barbara Cooper, Lois DeBerry, Craig Fitzhugh, Steve Hall, Michael Harrison, David Hawk, Matthew Hill, Curtis Johnson, Gerald McCormick, Steve McDaniel, Larry Miller, Gary Odom, Dennis Roach, Johnny Shaw. If you are the constituent of one of these representatives, please call or email them and let them know you are opposed to the State Charter Authorizer because of the financial strain it could likely place on counties across the state. (We know that you are likely opposed to it for other reasons, but this committee focuses on finances.) The bill in its current form will affect every county in Tennessee and will allow the state to authorize an unlimited number of charters irregardless of the financial status of a district. This could jeopardize funding for all the schools in a district and result in a decrease in services, school closings and/or tax increases.

You can find the contact information for these legislators at the following link: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/members/. If you are not sure who your representative is, you can go to this same link and enter your address at the top of the page in the Find Your Legislator text boxes. Please take 5 minutes to place a call or send an email–we need to make our voices heard! Thank you!

Read up on the details here.


We Need Your Support Tuesday at Noon

A press conference was held at 3 PM CST , Monday February 18th on steps of War Memorial Plaza in Nashville. Speakers included Metro Nashville Council and School Board Members, as well as members of the Nashville delegation of the TN General Assembly. They spoke out against the State Charter Authorizer bill that is going to be voted on Tuesday (2/19) during a House Education Committee hearing.

This legislation would take the decision to open a charter school away from locally elected school boards in Nashville and Memphis only. A state level charter authorizer would increase the reach of state government into local affairs and create additional bureaucracy. Decisions about opening new schools should be left to local officials, elected by local citizens, who understand the needs of our unique communities. The reach of any state level charter authorizer would also surely expand into more and more counties once this door is opened.

We need your support Tuesday (2/19).

If you can join us we will be gathering in room Room 16 of Legislative Plaza in Nashville at noon. We will have ST4SCS representatives speaking. Use the entrance across from TPAC auditorium under War Memorial Plaza.

If you cannot attend tomorrow (Tuesday 2/19), please contact your elected officials and let them know you are against Charter School Authorizer Bill (HB0702) and keep calling Beth Harwell at 615-741-0709.

To sign a petition that auto emails the House education committee to express your view against the Charter School Authorizer Bill (HB0702) click Stop the State Charter Authorizer.

We want to support Representative John Forgety’s bill  (HB0446) to amend the current role of the State Board of Education. It is a good bill.

Need to better understand why you should be against this bad legislation? Here is some helpful reading.

Legislature’s Charter Authorizer Steamroller Revving Its Engine by Schooling Memphis

State charter authorizer bill singles out Nashville, Memphis by the Tennessean

State School Charter Authorizer Bill Filed by TN Ed Report/John Haubenreich

Remember Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst gave $165,000 to the TN General Assembly’s education committees in campaign cash last election cycle. These same beneficiaries are backing the Charter Authorizer bill and vouchers.

This bill is all about Great Hearts. Another “punishment” from the State of TN for Nashville and Memphis.  Here is The Nashville Scene’s Q & A with House Speaker Beth Harwell about her charter school bill. Did you know that MNPS approves on average 36% of all charter applications? Which is higher than the national average. So we are now changing state laws because of one school in Nashville?

Thank you everyone for bringing the real voice of public school families to the State of TN General Assembly.