Charter Zone Not Planned Years Ago

Andy Spears posted an article titled, East Nashville Charter Planned Years Ago? The blog post was based on and cited an op-ed by Dr. Kristen Buras, a Georgia State professor.

I am here to tell you that is not true, in my opinion.

For starters, I don’t know how much someone outside of Tennessee (Buras) can tell about what’s happening in our school system. People in Nashville are still trying to find out about this plan because it’s came about so quickly. For someone outside Nashville to know this has been planned for years, but not anyone in Nashville, is something else altogether. What really happened is that very soon after the priority list was released, Dr. Register held a meeting with a variety of high level staffers. This happened relatively shortly before a school board meeting. Dr. Register decided to tell the public as much as he knew about the plan. One thing was clear: It was not a clear plan.

Dr. Buras’ article made it seem like you can only have community meetings before you have a plan. To have a community meeting, one must have a plan in the first place. What will you present to the community if not a loose idea of a plan? After a fluid plan was announced, Dr. Register announced meeting with all the priority list schools, which he is currently in the midst of doing.

Another way you can tell this hasn’t been planned? Dr. Register stumbled out of the starting blocks. The announcement was messy, it wasn’t clear, and there were a lot of misconceptions. But that means this was a plan that was formed at a fast pace so that it could be quickly disseminated to the public.

Additionally, we are Nashville. We are not Chicago. We are not New Orleans. We are not New York. Comparing what is happening in other cities is like comparing apples to oranges. We are a very specific district with very specific needs. We have a school board that does not approve all charter schools, closes down charter schools, and has a good discussion while doing that.

Of course we should take what happened in other cities and make sure it doesn’t happened here, but that’s totally different argument. I may not agree with what all charter schools are doing in Nashville, but I am totally confident in our elected officials and our central office staff to make sure that we don’t get run over with charters.

Finally, this is what we should actually be discussing: We are failing students. You may not agree with that statement, but I wholeheartedly agree. I see it everyday when I teach in North Nashville. I think we are failing students at the elementary level. If we cannot teach kids how to read in elementary school, they will be behind for the rest of their life. I understand all the dynamics that a child comes with when they reach elementary school. Parents don’t care, no books in the household, SES, etc. But that shouldn’t stop a child from learning to read. There are research proven ways to teach kids to the read, and we are not doing that.

Something needs to change.

What change should that be?

I don’t know, but it looks like MNPS is trying to find out.

For more on education policy and politics in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

East Nashville United: Give Us More Time

East Nashville United, a parent group formed in response to MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register’s plan to reorganize schools in East Nashville, has issued a call for Register to push back his proposed timeline.

Register has said his plan will be finalized by January 1st. The parent group wants to use the remainder of the school year to collect input and develop a plan.

From the press release:

“If we’re going to do this well, and do it right, we must push back the deadline to the end of the school year,” said John Haubenreich, the chair of ENU. “We don’t want to sprint, just to realize at the end that we sprinted to the wrong place. This gives the task force time to do its work, to marshal community resources, look into grant materials, and integrate plans with the budget which isn’t voted on until the end of the school year.”

Haubenreich points to the sheer size of MNPS as an argument in favor of an urgent, but methodical approach. Using MNPS’ own per-pupil expenditure number ($11,012), the Maplewood cluster represents a $44 million system, while the Stratford cluster represents at $55 million system. Combined, Register seeks to reorganize a $100 million entity.

“Dr. Register has proposed much too fast of a timeline, “ Haubenreich said. “No business in the world would ever attempt such a huge undertaking, with such a valuable set of assets, in such a short amount of time. Getting it done right cannot be sacrificed on the altar of getting it done fast.”

Jai Sanders, a parent at Inglewood Elementary School, says that MNPS needs to use the remainder of the school year to put together a thoughtful, effective plan for the clusters. One of four priority schools in East Nashville, Inglewood Elementary School initially looked like it was fated for a charter conversion or even a closure. But Register appeared to back away from both options in the face of widespread opposition from parents at last week’s meeting at Inglewood Elementary School. Instead, Register has discussed other options including making Inglewood a STEM or Padeia school.

“We applaud Dr. Register for recognizing the strong parental and community support Inglewood Elementary has earned from all of us,” said Sanders, one of the founding members of ENU and an active member of his school’s PTO. “We now need him to take the time to see what our school is doing well and what it needs to continue to improve. We can get there but not if MNPS tries to throw together a complex, untested plan in a matter of weeks.”

Less than one month after Register announced his East Nashville plan to the Metro School Board, he has largely abandoned the plan’s centerpiece — the ‘All-Choice’ mandate for the Stratford and Maplewood clusters.

Haubenreich applauds Register for reaffirming his support for zoned schools.

“We believe that an all-choice zone, with no zoned schools, is the wrong path for East Nashville,” Haubenreich said.  “Dr. Register has confirmed at community meetings that he has no intention of doing away with zoned schools, and we support that decision.”

Overall, ENU commends Dr. Register’s focus on the Stratford and Maplewood clusters. “The area’s diversity, population density and strong support for public schools of all shapes and sizes, creates an opportunity for successful reform,” said Ruth Stewart, the vice chair of the group and parent at Lockeland Design Center.

We do not need to choose between an unacceptable status quo and a plan that is the product of a hastily-assembled committee,” she added. “Rather, we demand that a community-driven task force have enough time to evaluate and ultimately recommend a range of approaches that reflect the needs of individual schools.”

“This doesn’t have to be a long process, but it shouldn’t be rushed either. You don’t improvepublic education on the fly.”

 

NOTE: John Haubenreich, identified in the press release as Chair of East Nashville United, is also a contributor to TN Ed Report.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Report: Charter Schools an Expensive Proposition for MNPS

A report by a third-party group commissioned by the MNPS School Board finds that the rapid growth of charter schools in Nashville is having a negative financial impact on the district.

The report, prepared by MGT of America, notes:

“… it is clear that charter schools impose a cost on MNPS – both directly and indirectly.  It is also clear … that the loss of operating funds caused by the transfer of revenue cannot likely be made up through a reduction in capital or facility costs.  Therefore, approving future charter schools does potentially meet the “bar” described in  Tennessee Code Annotated 49-13-108(b) which encourages local boards of education to consider fiscal impact in determining whether new charter schools may be “contrary to the best interest of the pupils, school district or community.”  From this analysis, new charter schools will, with nearly 100 percent certainty, have a negative fiscal impact on MNPS:    

They will continue to cause the transfer of state and local per student funds without reducing operational costs. 

They will continue to increase direct and indirect costs. 

They will continue to negatively impact deferred maintenance at leased buildings. 

They may have an offsetting impact on capital costs, if they open in areas of need for increased capacity.

The report confirms what some have suspected: Continued growth of charter schools presents higher costs to the district than operating without such growth.”

That’s not to say that the report suggest MNPS should not approve future charter schools. The report makes recommendations for handling future growth of charter schools, including encouraging such growth in areas of the school system experiencing rapid student growth. The Board adopted just such a proposal earlier this year.

The recommendations for managing future growth include: Developing a process to identify and quantify indirect costs to MNPS, such as support services; establishing a separate fund to better account for direct and indirect costs; levying depreciation charges to charter operators leasing MNPS facilities; and identifying areas of the school district where charter school growth would help offset the need for MNPS capital growth and expenditures.

The study is likely to shape future discussions at the Board level about what direction future charter growth will take.

For more on education policy and politics in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

East Nashville Parents Call on Register to “Start Over”

In response to an announcement by Dr. Jesse Register that plans are in the works to shakeup schools in East Nashville, including closing some schools, handing some over to charter operators, and allowing the state’s Achievement School District to takeover others, a group of East Nashville parents held a meeting on Saturday to launch a formal response.

The group, calling itself East Nashville United, is forming a Political Action Committee (PAC) and is calling on Register to start over on any plans to change the way schools work in East Nashville.

Matt Pulle, who hosted Saturday’s meeting, said, “We’d like Dr. Register to tear up his plan for East Nashville and start again, this time by listening to us all.”

In response to Register’s planned community meetings in East Nashville, Pulle said, “We don’t see the purpose of these community meetings if he already knows what he wants to do. So, start over. No plan, no preconceptions and hear what local parents and teachers want and need. And go to all our neighborhoods.”

At least one mayoral candidate, Jeremy Kane, attended Saturday’s meeting.

The possibility that Inglewood Elementary School may become a part of the Achievement School District caused parents there to send a letter supporting the school’s principal and expressing concern about being included in the ASD.

Turning schools over to the ASD is becoming more controversial in light of data analysis that indicates the ASD is not doing better (and in some cases, is performing worse) than the schools were performing before ASD takeover.

For more on the East Nashville United group, follow @EastNashUnited

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport