Bill’s Besties

NewsChannel5’s Phil Williams has been following the money to find out who is behind efforts to privatize Tennessee’s public schools. It’s no surprise that Lee’s longtime friend Betsy DeVos is among the key backers of privatization.

As Williams notes, among the big spenders on school privatization efforts when it comes to lobbying the General Assembly is the American Federation for Children. That group is funded by Betsy DeVos. In fact, Bill Lee has even been a donor in the past.

In fact, the American Federation for Children appears to be funded by billionaire Betsy DeVos and her family.

DeVos, who has worked with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, previously suggested to a gathering of evangelicals that part of her goal is taxpayer funding for religious schools.

“Our desire is to … confront the culture in which we all live today in ways which will continue to advance God’s kingdom,” she said.

Another name that came up in Williams’ story was that of Tennessee’s Shaka Mitchell, now serving in a multi-state lobbying role with the American Federation for Children.

Readers of TNEdReport may remember that Mitchell once led the Rocketship Charter Schools in Nashville.

Here’s what Mitchell had to say about his work on behalf of school privatization when he talked to Phil Williams:

Who speaks for the children? We really view that as our job,” said Shaka Mitchell with the American Federation for Children.

It’s not exactly clear that Mitchell is the best choice to talk about what’s good for kids. At least based on his record as a school leader.

In fact, while Mitchell was failing in his attempts to expand Rocketship, the State Board of Education noted:

In fact, Rocketship’s appeal to the State Board was rejected last year in part because of low performance:

“They did have a level 5 TVAAS composite, which is the highest score overall you can get in growth,” Heyburn said. “But their achievement scores are really low, some of the lowest in their cluster and in the district.”

The MNPS review team addressed this as well:

In summary, with no additional state accountability data to consider, and no compelling evidence presented that provides confidence in the review team, converting an existing low-performing school before Rocketship has demonstrated academic success on state accountability measures would not be in the best interests of the students, the district, or the community.

And then there’s this:

According to the Metro Schools letter, Rocketship is not providing services to children with special learning needs, like English language learners and students with disabilities.

The notice was sent from Metro Nashville Public School’s top administrators after a monitoring team with the Tennessee Department of Education came in to conduct a routine audit of special services, primarily programs adhering to The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

A Michigan billionaire proposing using public funds for religious indoctrination and a guy who repeatedly failed at serving kids while running a questionable charter operation – that’s who Bill Lee is counting on as he continues to push his radical education agenda.

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

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