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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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.


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.


1 Comment

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.


You Are Making a Difference. Info on Next Steps: Vouchers.

Keep Making A Difference! The voucher bill supported by Governor Haslam (HB0190) will be voted on in the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday, 2/26 at 3 PM in Legislative Plaza room 30. Please call or write Governor Haslam, Speaker Harwell, and the members of the House Education Subcommittee and voice your opposition to this bill. Their email addresses are as follows:

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.

Cut and paste the above addresses into the BCC line of your email account. Make it personal.

You can find their phone numbers at the following link:http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/committees/education.html. (The Governor’s phone number is 615-741-2001. Speaker Harwell’s is 615-741-0709.) You may also email the entire committee, along with Governor Haslam and Speaker Harwell, by signing This Petition. This is a quick and easy way to have your voice heard if you do not feel you have the time to personally call or email the representatives.

We were originally told that the Charter School Authorizer Bill (HB0702) was “rolled” until the April 2nd Education Committee meeting, but it has shown up on next week’s Education Committee agenda, Tuesday, 2/26 at noon in Legislative Plaza room 16. We have been told that it was a clerical error and that it will actually be voted on in a couple of weeks (or so). ST4SCS will have some representatives at next week’s meeting to monitor the proceedings. Please sign the charter authorizer petition if you have not already. We must not let our guard down.

Thanks again for all of your support. As volunteers with a bi-partisan representation, no backers and no funding, our cumulative voices must be heard by contacting our elected officials directly; grass-roots, standing strong together.

THIS WEEK’S PRESS:

State Charter Authorizer Sponsor ‘Listening’ to Input
WPLN

Nashville Foes Win Delay in Charter Authorizer Fight
Tennessean

ST4SCS Speakers: Anne-Marie Farmer and Chelle Baldwin
Click the photo for a video link on Facebook and hear what they had to say.

Speaking to House Education Committee.

Speaking to House Education Committee.


We are Being Silenced by Our TN State Government

PLEASE CALL TODAY: The Education Committee continues to refuse an opportunity for us to speak. ST4SCS has representatives arriving on capital hill as this is being posted. Please call Representative Brook’s office and Rep. White’s ASAP and tell them you do not want a Charter Authorizer Bill HB702/SB830 and Standing Together for Strong Community Schools needs an opportunity to speak. They are ignoring us.

Rep. Mark White from Memphis is the bill sponsor.
(615) 741-4415
mark.white@capitol.tn.gov

Rep. Brooks
(615) 741-6879.

Also we have a source that says Nashville’s own Mayor Karl Dean is behind the Authorizer bill. Call or email his office and let him know how you feel.

mayor@nashville.gov

615-862-6000

Here is the HB702/SB830 Amendment they are trying to push through with no discussion. Please read.

Amend HB702


Latest News On Charters and Vouchers

Latest news on vouchers and charter school info for the last week in January 2013.

A Conservative Remedy To The Great Hearts Mess
From: TN EDU Report

Amending TCA Section 49-13-108
Allowing chancery court a final decision of the state board of education on the charter school’s application.

Scott McNutt’s Snark Bites: Haslam to introduce public-money-to-private-entities transfer program
From: KnoxNews.com

School Vouchers: The Myth and the Reality
From: Raise Your Hand Texas

Link to the Tennessee General Assembly Bill HB 0190 “Opportunity Scholarships”

Cornerstone Situation Continues to Devolve
From: Schooling Memphis

Charter Schools That Start Bad Stay Bad, Stanford Report Says
From: Huffington Post

Legislation to cut public assistance for children’s families who do not do well in school.
From: Huffington Post

 “What if one child in a family is doing well and another is not?”
From: Newscoma 

Harrisburg schools saddled with debt and growing exodus to charter schools
From: Central PA Patriot News

Teachers’ Union Questions Haslam’s Commitment to Public Education
From: Pith in the Wind

CREDO Report: Charter School Growth And Replication’ Study

Voucher plan could cut $270K from city schools
From: The Tulahoma News

Tennessee voucher debate: the chance, and price, of ‘school choice’
From: WRCB 3 Chattanooga


Opportunity for Whom?

Monday, Gov. Haslam filed his anticipated voucher proposal to shift public money away from public schools. The bill is titled the “Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act.”  A first review of the bill cries out for an answer to the question – Opportunity for Whom?

The first thing that jumps out about this bill is its statement that participating private schools need not offer special education services to voucher holding students. Since most private schools offer limited, if any, special education services, this provision seems to explicitly exclude students with special education needs from the “opportunity” the bill claims to create.

Further, there is no requirement that a participating private school accept voucher students without regard to its normal admissions criteria. Thus, with respect to those schools that have such admissions requirements, academically struggling students (the very students the bill is supposed to assist) will also be left without this new “opportunity.”

Certainly there is no new “opportunity” here for public school districts who will see much needed funds flow from their operating budgets.

So who will be benefit from this great new “opportunity”?  Those private schools that are financially struggling and need a tax-funded bail out from the state, while maintaining the ability to screen out low-performing or high-needs students.

Contact your Legislators and tell them you do not want your tax dollars funding private schools.


Spilling the Milk over Achievement & Choice in Public Education

There is so much talk about “choice” these days.  Choice, being defined as the opportunity or privilege of making a selection or decision when faced with two or more possibilities, seems to be the new education buzz word.  Achievement is so 2011. Americans enjoy the privilege of choice more than any other country and the plethora seems to be as American as apple pie. What clothes to wear and what store from which to get our milk are some of the hundreds of simple, everyday choices we make.   Choices such as who to vote for, where to buy or rent a home, and where to send our children to school are big, impactful decisions that are not made daily, nor are they made lightly.

Governor Haslam recently interviewed Governor Jeb Bush, the Chairman of  the Foundation for Excellence reform lobbying group, about his role in Florida’s education reform while in office.  Toward the end of the interview Bush stated that he was “intolerant and impatient” of people that have an “illogical resistance” to the fast paced implementation of vouchers and charter schools managed by for profit companies.  He went on to compare education choice to buying milk saying that there should be as many choices as possible–“I tell my friends to go to the store and look at all the different types of milk.”

By that analogy we can all assume that everyone can choose to buy whatever kind of milk that is available at the store.  That’s a bad assumption because availability does not mean accessibility.  If I live in the wealthier area of Nashville and my kids need milk, I can just drive to one of three grocery stores that are within a few hundred feet of each other and make my choice between multiple types of regular and organic milk.  I even have the option to buy almond or soy milk if my child is lactose intolerant.  But what happens if I live closer to downtown in a food desert where there is no grocery store near me?  Perhaps I’m fortunate enough to have a car and can drive several miles to the store and buy regular milk since the organic milk is out of my budget.  If I don’t have a car I could ride the bus to the grocery store, unless, of course, I am in a wheelchair and can’t navigate the bus and a bunch of groceries in bags.  The corner store that sells magazines, cigarettes, and soda may have a ramp for my wheelchair so I can buy the one brand of milk they carry and hope it’s not past the expiration date.  My choice seems to have been dramatically reduced, if not eliminated, due to some life circumstances, but ostensibly I have “choices”–I just can’t access them.

Our Governor, Bill Haslam, is now prioritizing the so-called concept of “choice” before actual student achievement.  It wasn’t that long ago that he said Tennessee has an “immoral” achievement gap that needs to be addressed.  Yet he recently stated that he is going to propose a voucher bill that will go to award “opportunity scholarships” to a hand-full of students living in poverty and attending failing schools.  They will, supposedly, then use these vouchers towards private schools, if they can get in that is…

Private schools have entrance requirements that often weed out students with poor performance and those with disabilities–the very students that are the bulk of the cause of the achievement gap.  The students that pass the entrance requirements and gain access to the private schools will have to be from families that can get them to and from school, as well as afford to buy them uniforms and books. The local education tax dollars for these children will then go to the private companies that run these schools and, subsequently, be taken out of the budgets of our already underfunded community schools.

Studies of voucher programs across the nation have not shown consistent increases in student achievement; so TN voucher holders, who will account for less than 2% of TN public school students, are not likely to see significant improvements in their academic achievement.  While the voucher holders experience small class sizes and limited testing the low performing and disabled students who are left behind at public schools struggling with even less money than before will continue to experience large class sizes and relentless testing.  As a result those students will probably not make significant strides, if any, in their achievement and the gap will, ironically, likely widen.  Perhaps the Governor is comfortable with this likely possibility, but we are not.

If we want to see the results of putting choice above achievement, we need look no further than Minnesota: They have had vouchers and charter schools for the past 2 decades and the students who have participated in these programs have not shown significant strides in achievement nor have the district schools improved because of the “competition”.  Our children do not have twenty years to spare to take part in the nationwide choice experiment.

We need improved achievement for ALL students NOW and we believe that adequate funding of our schools is necessary to reach this goal. (Tennessee is 47th in the nation for per pupil funding.) Stand with us for strong community schools and tell your legislators that we don’t want vouchers.  We want adequate funding so all of our students can reap the proven achievement boost from small class sizes, along with individualized attention and support.  We want all students to receive an equitable and excellent education in their community schools. And don’t forget to tell your legislators that WE, as tax paying constituents, are NOT OK with choice trumping achievement.

  • Click here for your State Representative and email or write them.
  • Click here for your Senator and email or write them.