ST4SCS Archive 2012


Start at the bottom if you want a chronological post. It is enlightening what has come true. Today charters forced on districts using the state authorizer are some of the worst in the state on accountability measures. Negative budget impacts are measurable in Nashville and Memphis with unregulated charter growth. Districts know best about their charter growth and should be allowed to plan. This is impossible under current policy. And the ASD takeover model has been declared mistake.

The larger purpose of this TREE post is to archive the “Standing Together” website content. That site is now deleted. Thanks for reading.

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 a commitment to a larger group of state-wide activists we have joined under a non-profit calledTennesseans 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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TODAY DEC 9TH, TAKE ACTION TO RECLAIM PUBLIC EDU

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TODAY, Monday, December 9 has been designated as a NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION.  Events are being held in cities across the country to promote and protect the core values of public education.  While no “live” events are planned for Tennessee, Tennesseans can still take action online and continue to inform ourselves about issues affecting our schools.  You can learn more about today’s national effort

 http://www.reclaimpublicednow.org/principles

and sign the petition to show your support

http://www.reclaimpublicednow.org/action

The petition will then give you an opportunity to email your elected officials about where you stand on supporting public education. This is an important, powerful step to share your voice. Your elected officials will only feel compelled to question changes in policy and vote against the corporate public school strategy if YOU, the voter, tell them what you want for public school children. By entering your address, the petition will auto-fill your representatives for email.

Another way you can act to spread the word about strengthening public education is to share this post on all YOUR social media (your Facebook page, twitter account, email) and encourage others to follow Standing Together for Strong Community Schools and learn more about education in Tennessee and across the nation!  Spread the word!

Follow  #ReclaimPublicEd on Twitter
Follow National Opportunity to Learn Campaign on Facebook.

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PARENT ADVOCATES ASK NASHVILLE TO PLAN AHEAD

broad-school-closingSEPTEMBER 16, 2013
Like 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 moderate 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 cannot 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.

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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 for 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

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MOMMA BEAR AND WEST TN MOMS STAND UP TO HASLAM

MommaBearBlog

JUNE 27, 2013
There is significant backlash against education “reform” developing around the state, including West Tennessee. A West TN public school mother, known as “Momma Bear”, recently wrote a letter to Governor Haslam, notifying him of her concerns with “reform” and a petition she recently launched. We are posting her letter to Governor Haslam as part of a new blog topic series focusing on voices from around the state. While ST4SCS advocates for local control of education policies, we are expanding our blog coverage to include at-large issues that are linked to local control. We strongly feel that points of view from across our great state need to be highlighted. Would you like your voice to be heard? Contact us at info@strongcommunityschools.com.

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I’m Momma Bear, a parent in TN and this is the email I sent to Governor Haslam.
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Dear Governor Haslam,

I voted for you because I believed in you. Now, I’m not so sure.

The more I find out about education “reform,” the more I see how billionaires are changing our public schools for the worse:

…with each new charter school I see popping up where a neighborhood school should be fully funded and thriving,
…with every report of Charter Schools: achievement rates (at the expense of students being kicked out to public schools for low test scores), corruption with money, discriminating against students, being operated by non-Americans (Gulen Charter schools), etc.
…with every teacher lost to the profession because they were unappreciated or offered a job that pays much more,
…with every minute wasted on Standardized Testing and stressing our students,
…with every teacher stressed over how her students will score on Standardized Testing because it will affect her employment,
…with every dollar paid to testing companies that could be spent funding classrooms,
…with every teacher that spends out of her own paycheck to buy supplies for her students,
…with the student TEI “Tripod” surveys that were given to our children, without parental consent, that asked personal questions about our homes, our TVs, their parent’s education, etc.
…with every unqualified, inexperienced Teach For America person that is put in a classroom with poor students who deserve an experienced, qualifed educator,
…with forcing our kids to Race to the Top of nowhere for money,
…and now with the Common Core being forced upon us…

I’m just not so sure anymore that I made the best vote for Governor. I think you’ve been bought out by your rich buddies. I think you’ve been fed a pail of hogwash with this education reform movement. You have lost touch with those that voted you into this office.

When I heard that the minimum salary ranges for teachers had been approved last week, that was the last straw for this Momma Bear. I started a petition on change.org to demand that you get rid of Kevin Huffman. I’m sure it made a rotten Monday for you to find those in your email inbox. Well, it was a rotten weekend for those who are in college wanting to be teachers knowing they’ll never make what they deserve in TN. It has been a rotten decade for teachers and for students. Their morale is worn, and they are afraid of the future. I had to speak up and do something, and I’m glad I did because…

In less than 24 hours over 300 people have signed it from across the State of Tennessee. Some are teachers and some are parents, but all are FED UP with our schools being “reformed” by those who have no vesting in TN public education, no children in the public school systems, no qualified experience in classrooms, and no business telling teachers and educators how to do their jobs. We’re fed up. Do you hear us???

We’re demanding that you listen to teachers and parents, and NOT Students First, NOT Stand For Children, NOT Achieve, NOT ALEC, NOT Teach for America, NOT The New Teacher Project, NOT Education Pioneers, NOT Charter School Vultures, NOT Bill Gates, NOT Sam Walton, NOT Eli Broad, NOT Michelle Rhee, and NOT any other “non-profit” education reform group. It is imperative that you listen to your voters, and represent us, or we will elect a candidate who will in 2014.

Sincerely,

a Momma Bear in TN

Reposted by ST4SCS with permission.

Photo Credit: National Geographic

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STATE AUTHORIZER AND VOUCHERS ARE DEAD. STANDING TOGETHER WE MADE A DIFFERENCE.

APRIL 30, 2013
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!

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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.govrep.david.alexander@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.armstrong@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.govrep.kent.calfee@capitol.tn.govrep.mike.carter@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barbara.cooper@capitol.tn.govrep.lois.deberry@capitol.tn.govrep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.hall@capitol.tn.govrep.mike.harrison@capitol.tn.govrep.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.govrep.larry.miller@capitol.tn.govrep.gary.odom@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dennis.roach@capitol.tn.govrep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.govsen.randy.mcnally@capitol.tn.gov, sen.douglas.henry@capitol.tn.govsen.bo.watson@capitol.tn.govsen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov, sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.govsen.lowe.finney@capitol.tn.govsen.ferrell.haile@capitol.tn.gov, sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.govsen.bill.ketron@capitol.tn.govsen.jim.kyle@capitol.tn.gov, sen.mark.norris@capitol.tn.gov

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WHAT’S THE LATEST NEWS ON THE STATE CHARTER AUTHORIZER BILL?

APRIL 1, 2013
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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SENATOR GRESHAM CLOAKS VOUCHER LEGISLATION IN DRIVER’S ED BILL

MARCH 18. 2013
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.

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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.

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LATEST LEGISLATIVE NEWS AND ST4SCS OPINION ON AMENDED “CHARTER PANEL”

UPDATED 5pm cst MARCH 5, 2013
House Education Committee passed a State Charter Panel Bill. It will be made up of 9 appointed people (3 from Governor, 3 from Speaker of House and 3 from speaker of Senate). They will have final approval on Charter school appeals. The state will maintain ALL control over the charter it approves but your district (LEA) will have to fund it. The LEA will NOT be able to close the school if it is failing nor will they be able to hold it accountable if it is not providing adequate services to Special Education students or English Language Learners (ELL). There is 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. Citizens will NOT be able to hold the panel accountable if the financial burden of charter schools forces increases in taxes. The State will be writing checks that districts state wide will be paying for. Tell the members of the House that YOUR city is not going to fund THEIR charter school.

Harwell’s Charter Authorizer Bill Clears Committee; Dems Call New State Board ‘Death Panel for Public Schools’

Our Press Release Earlier Today

STATEWIDE PARENTS GROUP SAYS VOTE FOR VOUCHERS AND STATE AUTHORIZER IS A VOTE FOR LOCAL PROPERTY TAX INCREASE

Experience locally and nationally show additional taxes will be needed to support new expanded “choices” – Calls for local referendum for voucher program.

Nashville –Standing Together 4 Strong Community Schools, a group of Tennessee parents who oppose proposals for a voucher program to pay for private school tuition and a proposal to create a state authorizer for charter schools, warned legislators today that a vote for these proposals is a vote for local property tax increases.

“Today we learned that charter schools will cost Metro taxpayers $15 million next year.  The creation of a second entity with the authority to approve charter schools could cause this figure to increase at an uncontrollable rate, and this should be alarming to taxpayers in Davidson County whose property taxes were just raised last year,” said Chelle Baldwin a spokesperson for the group.

“This legislation amounts to taxation without representation.   It removes control of our schools from locally elected officials and places it in the hands of an appointed board at the state level.  Under this bill, a voter in Memphis will have as much say about what schools open in Green Hills as a voter here in Nashville.  The state will be able to open as many new schools as it wishes while Nashville taxpayers pay for them.  Nashvillians will have absolutely no say-so about the performance of the state schools that we are funding and no ability to close them. At the very least, we need assurances that state-opened schools don’t drive off us off the fiscal cliff.   The cost of operating charter schools is quite high, and this could be the king of unfunded mandates,” said Metro Nashville School Board member Amy Frogge, who is also a member of Standing Together 4 Strong Community Schools.

Standing Together 4 Strong Community Schools also pointed out that that recent attempts to expand Wisconsin’s twenty-three year old voucher program has stalled over concerns about increased local property taxes to pay for vouchers. The Republican President of the Wisconsin Senate has demanded that any expansion of their state’s voucher program include a requirement for a local referendum approving the use of local public tax dollars going to private schools. Last year“We would suggest that same requirement for local taxpayers’ approval for any voucher program in Tennessee. In Nashville, about two-thirds of the total voucher payment would come from local taxpayers. Shelby County taxpayers would pay about half of the total amount. We need a say in how our public tax dollars are spent,” said Baldwin.

See these articles about property taxes and Wisconsin’s voucher program:

A State Appointed Panel could be in a position to authorize hundreds of charters across all of TN if you don’t voice your opposition NOW! Amazingly, those backing this bill refuse to place any sort of fiscal limit on it. This legislation, as it stands, could have disastrous effects on our city and schools!

Please call Speaker Harwell’s office to express your opposition. (615)741-0709

Or email her: speaker.beth.harwell@capitol.tn.gov

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CALL TO ACTION: NEW CHARTER AUTHORIZER AMENDMENT

MARCH 5, 2013
Tomorrow, Tuesday, the House Education Committee could vote on the State Charter Authorizer bill. It is amended as an appointed panel to approve all charter appeals from ANY CITY STATE-WIDE. Your cities fund a majority of the cost of educating a student. Nashville alone pays 2/3rd of the cost for charter schools. A state authorizer could approve a school your city does not want AND maintain control of that school but not fully fund it. Elected school boards will have NO control over charters they are forced to fund. Call Speaker Beth Harwell’s office Tuesday morning and tell her NO State Authorizer and NO to “State Charter Panel” bill House Amendment 702! (615) 741-0709

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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

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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.

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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.

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URGENT CALL TO ACTION! CALL BETH HARWELL.

URGENT CALL TO ACTION! The state charter authorizer bill (HB0702) is scheduled to be voted on during the full House Education Committee at 12 PM on Tuesday, February 19th which is TOMORROW!!!!. The best chance we have of defeating this measure is stopping it in committee, so we need your help:

1) This is Rep. Beth Harwell’s bill–she just asked Rep. White to sponsor it. Today is a Holiday so the Legislators will not be in their offices but you can call Tuesday morning before the House Education Committee meeting to tell her that you are against a state charter authorizer. (Her phone number is 615-741-0709.) If you happen to be one of her constituents, be sure to let whomever you speak to know. (You can also email her at speaker.beth.harwell@capitol.tn.gov, but phone calls will likely have more of an impact right now. Let’s keep her phone ringing off the hook!)

2) Attend the committee hearing on Tuesday, 2/19 at noon. It will be in House Hearing Room 16 at Legislative Plaza in Nashville. We will be passing out stickers so you can be visually identified as opponents of the charter authorizer law. Let’s pack out the room! (By the way, thanks to all of your emails and phone calls, we are on the agenda to speak before the full committee during this meeting!)

3) Call and/or email the members of the full House Education Committee and tell them you are against the bill. There emails are as follows: 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, rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jim.coley@capitol.tn.gov, rep.lois.deberry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.dunn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.lollar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ryan.williams@capitol.tn.gov. You can find their phone numbers at the following link: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/committees/education.html

They are hearing us–so keep speaking up! Thanks to each of you for your support. Upward. Onward. Together!

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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

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POWER GRAB ON THE HILL! CALL TO ACTION!!

Today we are seeing an outrageous power grab play out in the Tennessee legislature.  Legislation creating a process to circumvent the local school boards of Davidson and Shelby counties that allows charter school applicants to go directly to the state for charter approval was filed yesterday (Feb. 11) and is on the agenda for the House education subcommittee today.  This last-minute addition of language creating a direct state-level path to charter authorization is an obvious attempt to rush this legislation through the committee before the public has any opportunity to review or speak out about this bill.  Tennessee parents and taxpayers are being shut out of decisions affecting our schools and our children.  Tennesseans know that once this can of worms is opened and public input is silenced, by limiting the authority of locally elected officials in Nashville and Memphis, those advocating this power grab will push to expand it until more and more Tennessee counties find local control of the decision to open schools has vanished.  No county will be immune.

If you can, please attend the House Education Subcommittee meeting today at 3 pm in Legislative Plaza room 30.  It would be helpful to have folks there to show that we do NOT want such a huge policy decision pushed through without public input.  Also, whether you can attend today or not, please email all the members of House education subcommittee and telling them you do NOT want to see locally elected officials sidelined in favor of charter school decisions made by unelected, unaccountable persons outside your community.  Here are their email addresses, for an easy cut and paste:

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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EDUCATING ON THE ISSUES OF A STATE AUTHORIZER AND VOUCHERS

Standing Together for Strong Community Schools is pleased with the response and reception we have received from around the State of Tennessee. We are uniting the voices of like-minded citizens and gathering information to help the legislature understand that implementing a state charter authorizer and vouchers removes local control and siphons off precious education dollars. These initiatives are not in the best interest of the children of TN. Please continue to check our website and “like” our Facebook page to find out ways you can ask our legislators to vote “NO” on both of these upcoming pieces of legislation. Please consider signing up for our mailing list to receive information on upcoming exclusive events and important alerts.

If you are undecided on these issues, here are some articles that might help.

READ ABOUT ISSUES ON THE CHARTER AUTHORIZER AND VOUCHERS

VOUCHERS AND SCHOOL FINANCE: SAVING THE STATEHOUSE $
“Vouchers would ultimately prevent a decrease in education costs.”

GROW SOME JUEVOS (EGGS) ON CHARTERS!
Cloaking Inequity – Julian Vasquez Heilig’s Education and Public Policy Blog

VOUCHERS WILL HURT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Op-Ed from the Tennessean

STANFORD: WALL STREET GANG NOW OFFER EDUCATION CHOICES
About a quarter of the kids in the San Antonio School District Attend Charters…

NASHVILLE PARENTS PRESS FIGHT ON VOUCHERS, CHARTER AUTHORIZER
“Vouchers would just take money out of an already low-funded school system,” Patton said. “And it’s not a panacea. They’ve not necessarily been shown to raise student achievement.”

NEW GROUP FORMS TO FIGHT VOUCHERS, OPPOSE EDUCATION “SPECIAL INTERESTS”.
Standing Together for Strong Community Schools

VOUCHERS DON’T GET TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
“Rather than treating children like so many peas in a shell game, our leaders should focus on improving schools.”

RESEARCH EVIDENCE VS. SOARING IDEOLOGY: SCHOOL VOUCHERS AND ACHIEVEMENT
“It is very difficult to find rigorous scientific studies conclusively demonstrating that vouchers have a positive, empirically measurable impact on student achievement”

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STAND WITH US TENNESSEE

JANUARY 7, 2013
We were pleased the Tennessean wanted to do a story on “Standing Together for Strong Community Schools”. We hope our message resonates with the State of Tennessee. We are truly grassroots volunteers. We do not have a shiny office or slick board room. We receive no PAC money. There is no bank account. We meet in coffee shops, parks, or other public school parents’ homes. We scramble for childcare for our meetings, but when we can’t find it, our children scramble underfoot as we discuss how to ensure that they, as well as all the children of Tennessee, receive the best public education possible.  We fear some will take our initiatives out of context, so we choose to craft our message on this website. We want other education advocates and public school parents around the state to share their experiences–in their words–with us.

We want voters and other public school parents to understand that vouchers and unfettered growth of charter schools are not panaceas and, in fact, can effectively weaken our public school systems. We need thoughtful school reform that ensures good charters enter the school system. Charters must best serve our unique communities and help support and strengthen our zoned district schools. It must be done through local control, not a state level charter authorizer.

Please fan us on Facebook and follow us on twitter @4TNSchools.

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WHY CHARTER SCHOOL DECISIONS SHOULD STAY LOCAL

Education reform news from around the country. Will a TN state charter authorizer ensure that charters placed in Tennessee communities will not run amuck?

SOUTH BOSTON CHARTER CALLED INTO QUESTION
“Critics of charter schools have questioned whether the academy has been pushing out disruptive or academically struggling pupils in order to boost its test scores.”

COULD A CHARTER SCHOOL FINE YOU FOR DETENTION TIME? SEEMS SO.
CHICAGO — Some of the city’s top charter schools are ringing up fines for disciplinary infractions even as they’re racking up large increases in public funding.

MEMPHIS PARENTS LASH OUT AGAINST ACHIEVEMENT SCHOOL DISTRICT LEADERS
The Lester Community Center bristled with anger Wednesday as Binghamton leaders demanded Achievement School District leaders explain why they were not part of decisions regarding Lester School.

PARSING CHARTER SCHOOL DISABILITY ENROLLMENTS
How charter schools in the city of Newark, NJ, by taking on fewer low income students, far fewer LEP/ELL students and very few children with disabilities other than those with the mildest/lowest cost disabilities are leaving behind a much higher need, higher cost population for the district schools to serve.

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SAMPLE LETTER TO LEGISLATORS

Please write, email, or call your State Senator and State Representative and let them know your feelings about the impending Statewide Charter Authorizer and Voucher bills. Feel free to use the following letter as a guide when contacting them, but please know that they are generally more interested in correspondence that is personally written and includes your own specific concerns about issues. (Please click here to find out who your State Senator and State Representative are. Click here to get contact information for your State Representative and here to get  contact information for your State Senator. Please click here for more reasons against these bills that you can use in your letter. )

Dear _____________,

My name is ____________ and I live at ______________ in ____________. I am concerned about the Statewide Charter Authorizer (SCA) and School Voucher bills that will likely be presented to the legislature in the next few months. I do not believe that an SCA will be good for our state because it would increase the reach of state government into local affairs and create additional bureaucracy. In addition, because the SCA would be appointed, they would not be accountable to the will of the voters like locally elected school boards currently are. Last, an SCA cannot possibly understand the unique needs of every district in the state. Locally elected school boards can adapt to the unique social and cultural dynamics of their community and pursue more creativity in addressing educational issues which develop.

I do not believe a school voucher program will benefit our state because vouchers divert attention, commitment, and dollars from public schools to subsidize private-school tuition for a few students, including many who already attend private schools, creating new costs for taxpayers. A dollar spent on a tuition voucher is a dollar drained from public education. Vouchers also eliminate public accountability: They channel tax dollars into private schools that do not face state-approved academic standards, do not make budgets public, do not adhere to open meetings and records laws, do not publicly report on student achievement, and do not face the public accountability requirements contained in state and federal laws, including special-education laws.

Instead of passing these bills, I believe the state of TN should fully fund its public schools. (TN is currently 47th in the nation for per pupil funding.) How can we expect to achieve excellence in our public schools if we refuse to properly fund them? I also believe the legislature should encourage citizens to support our public schools instead of attempting to dismantle the system. Please vote “no” on the SCA and Voucher bills and fight for adequate funding and support for our public schools.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

(Include contact information–including address–here.)

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WHAT DOES A STRONG COMMUNITY SCHOOL LOOK LIKE?

We are told by our school administration and our state government we should be engaged parents and citizens. I feel this site gives us a voice. I wonder if lawmakers and policy makers will be listening? Many times we are asked, “What do you want for your schools?” So let’s put together a wish list. Interestingly, I feel most lists made out by any education group might look the same. We need to work together to find a way to make this list a reality. We know what a strong school looks like. We should be able to decide locally how to create it.

Do we need a state-level charter authorizer or vouchers to make this list happen? That is the question we all keep asking ourselves. Why does it take totally dismantling and privatizing to create education quality? And how might those changes affect the good results already happening in system? We feel there are great things on this list that ARE happening at the school and district level in both charter and zoned schools. We hope to bring them to your attention on this site.

WISH LIST
Look for these topics to be addressed in individual posts in the weeks to come.
Smaller Class Sizes
Better Funding
Teacher Training
More Technology Tools
Site-Based Managed Schools
Wellness Programs
Art & Music
Physical Education
Foreign Language
Facilities Improvements
Support for the Disabled
More Recess Time for Elementary School
Strong Academics
Allow all Children to Reach Their Individual Academic Potential
Value Progress Over Benchmarks
True College Prep
True Career Prep
Social Emotional Development
Close the Digital Divide
Safe Schools
Head Start/Preschool Funding
Support for Children of Poverty
Services for Diverse Communities
Mental Health Programs
Mind The Gap
Food Quality
Hands-on help in the classroom to service testing and return teachers to teaching.

Want to add to this list?
Email us. info@strongcommunityschools.com

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EDUCATION REFORM HEADED TO THE TN LEGISLATURE

News Stories Updated January 2nd, 2013

FRANKLIN SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT OPPOSES VOUCHERS AND CHARTER AUTHORIZER
“The legislation discussed takes the authority away from districts, so basically it makes it easier for charter schools to be authorized. One could bypass the school board to open up charter schools,” said FSSD Director of Schools Dr. David Snowden of Williamson County, TN.

NASHVILLE METRO COUNCIL PROPOSES RESOLUTION
A resolution opposing all state legislation that would create a school voucher program in Tennessee or a state charter school authorizer without adequate state funds being appropriated to local school districts to cover the additional cost

STRONG VOICES

JANUARY 3, 2013
We are public school supporters organizing against the establishment of a statewide charter authorizer and school vouchers (a.k.a., corporate welfare checks). We feel that implementing a voucher program and allowing an unelected group of state-level administrators to determine which charter schools can come into our individual school districts will cost taxpayers millions, limit competition, and, worst of all, hinder sustainable improvement in education overall at the zoned school level. We feel that if our local school boards cannot choose what charter schools enter our districts, parent and voter voices will be further marginalized, school budgets will continue to shrink, and classroom sizes will continue to swell.

We do not have a shiny office or slick board room. We receive no PAC money. We meet in coffee shops, parks, or other public school parents’ homes. We scramble for child care for our meetings, but when we can’t find it, our children scramble underfoot as we discuss how to ensure that they, as well as all the children of Tennessee, receive the best public education possible.  We fear some will take our initiatives out of context, so we choose to craft our message on this website.  We want voters and other public school parents to understand that vouchers and unfettered growth of charter schools are not panaceas and, in fact, can effectively weaken our public school systems. We want thoughtful school reform that ensures that good charters enter our school systems–charters that best serve our unique communities and help support and strengthen our zoned district schools. We want other education advocates and public school parents around the state to share their experiences–in their words–with us. And we want parents to connect with us so we can work together to strengthen our schools within our communities.

We hope you can help our voice grow by taking action HERE.

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WHY LOCAL CONTROL MATTERS

JANUARY 2, 2013
1. A Statewide Charter Authorizer (SCA) would increase the reach of state government into local affairs and create additional bureaucracy.

2. Unlike local school boards, the members of an SCA would be appointed, not elected. Therefore, an SCA would not be accountable to the voters of Tennessee–in fact, the appointed bureaucrats in the SCA would not be accountable to you at all.

3. An SCA cannot possibly understand the unique needs of every district in the state. Locally elected school boards can adapt to the unique social and cultural dynamics of their community and pursue more creativity in addressing educational issues which develop.

4. Because local school boards are directly elected, they hold a greater stake in the success of the schools in the district. Therefore, they are more likely to ensure that the charter schools they approve are going to meet the needs of their community.

5. The state of TN has not proven that an SCA is needed:

  • The state’s website indicates that TN school boards are already doing an adequate job of selecting and monitoring charter schools:
    “Charter schools are public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies that must include parents. In Tennessee, public charter school students are measured against the same academic standards as students in other public schools. Local boards of education ensure that only those charter schools open and remain open that are meeting the needs of their students, district and community. Local boards do this through rigorous authorization processes, ongoing monitoring of the academic and financial performance of charter schools, and, when necessary, through the revocation or non-renewal of charters.”
  • The charter schools in Metro Nashville have generally performed better than charter schools in other parts of the state, suggesting that the Metro Nashville Public School Board has done a good job of selecting and monitoring its charter schools. Perhaps the state of TN should ask the MNPS Board to share its charter procedures with other school boards across the state rather than entirely removing the right of these elected boards to choose what is best for their individual communities.

6. Schools authorized by an SCA would take money from the budgets of our local public schools and existing, locally authorized charter schools. The SCA would, therefore, arbitrarily take money from the funds reserved for our districts’ needs.

 7. Because of some of the problems that can occur if charter schools are not closely monitored, it seems that the individuals most invested in the success of these schools (i.e., locally elected school boards) should have the final say in which schools should be allowed. Some of these problems are as follows:

  • Charter schools tend to exclude/under serve students with disabilities.
  • When charter companies decide to call it quits, or are forced to close due to poor performance,  they disrupt communities.
  • Some charter schools have dramatically restricted curricula, removing art and music classes.
  • Charter companies are not accountable to parents and citizens through local elections, so parent voice and control can be diminished.
  • Charter schools can increase racial and economic segregation, sifting society and marginalizing social capital.
  • Many charter companies do not outperform traditional public schools.

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LOSS OF LOCAL CONTROL CREATES POTENTIAL FOR THE NEW SEGREGATION

DECEMBER 20, 2012
A new TN state law now allows charter schools to serve all students, not just low-income students in failing schools. The State of Tennessee must understand the long-term impact of charter schools set up to serve all communities, not just those at risk or failing. Metro Nashville Public School District (MNPS) witnessed the outcome of the State’s vision on charter schools during their fight against Great Hearts Academies–it is an example of how any elected TN school board could be punished for making a decision for their community that the appointed TN Board of Education does not agree with:  MNPS was arbitrarily penalized $3.4 million dollars–denying schools, teachers, and students of necessary funding. Is this an example of how the proposed TN State Charter Authorizer would work? How much do we want the state to decide our local needs? In the case of Nashville, MNPS wanted charter schools to reflect the needs of the community and ensure all students have access to this new charter school. If diversity policy is not planned and transportation is not provided with these new “serve-all” charters, a new system of segregation will be set up–skimming the best students who can afford fees and provide their own transportation, leaving only the children unable to provide transportation, pay fees, or navigate the application process left in the zoned schools.

There are charters in other states that do not see a problem with this “new segregation”. This quote from the Nashville City Paper during the Great Hearts debate illustrates the potential:

“We have schools that land all over the map [in Phoenix],” Heiler [Great Hearts board President] says. “Some would be serving very middle-class folks by and large, we have one inner-city school that serves ethnic minority kids, and we have another one that would open that would be similar to that. In Tennessee it seems like there was more of a focus of bringing diversity into each school, whereas here we try to serve a diversity of communities.” [boldface added for emphasis]

The majority of Nashville’s school board members stood strong and decided this was not the type of charter school that would best serve the MNPS district. (They also expressed concern that the Great Hearts’ charter proposal did not meet the diversity contingencies included in the TN State BOE mandate to approve Great Hearts.) A district consisting of 75% free and reduced lunch would be little helped unless they were offered transportation and fee waivers. Great Hearts transportation proposal was weak at best–offering to transport students for only two years. Here is a quote from Ed Kindall, former MNPS School Board member, concerning great Hearts:

“What I worry about is that if there is [a charter school] that opens in an area that has a large population of middle- or middle-to-upper class parents, what is that school going to really look like?” MNPS school board member Ed Kindall told The City Paper in a Nov. 8 article. “I think if we don’t find a way to ensure that these are diverse schools — socioeconomically, racially, etc. — we’re going to deepen the isolation within our school system.”

Tennessee’s Commissioner of the Department of Education, Kevin Huffman, is quoted in his own 1998 New York University Law Review saying:

“Opponents of charter school reform believe that loose regulation will allow charter schools to siphon the wealthiest and best-educated families from traditional public schools. These opponents fear that traditional neighborhood schools will deteriorate and that the charter school movement will disproportionately burden lower classes and children of color…Implemented on a large scale, charter schools have the potential to tilt school choice, leaving children of poor and ill-informed parents behind, consigned to suffering the deterioration of neighborhood schools.”

If this loose regulation is possible, how do we ensure that school resegregation will not happen? If even Commissioner Huffman himself recognizes this potential inequity, then why didn’t the state of Tennessee do more to require Great Hearts to provide transportation and insure access to a diverse population? The MNPS school board feared the outcome of a Great Hearts arrival would not serve the best interests of the district and they believed that the Great Hearts application did not meet the diversity contingencies set forth in the State BOE mandate, so they decided that they could not accept the Great Hearts charter. (The Nashville board wanted to ensure equal access by providing transportation and a location that could serve a diverse population.) Local school boards are elected to determine local educational needs. If the Charter Authorizer Law is put in place, the outcome for MNPS will be “new segregation”. What will the outcome be for your community school decisions? And if you do not agree with the State of Tennessee, what will your penalty be? Now is the time to stop the state charter authorizer and keep our community schools strong to better serve ALL children equally, and keep our decisions local. Please write your TN legislature and tell them how you feel about this issue.

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PUBLIC SCHOOL ADVOCATES SPEAK OUT

DECEMBER 18. 2012
Standing Together for Strong Community Schools is a grass-roots, nonpartisan coalition of parents and community members who value public education and are committed to strengthening and protecting Tennessee’s public schools. For too long, discussion of public education in Tennessee has been dominated by negativity and manipulated by well-funded special interests intent on dismantling our school systems, diverting public money from public schools, and limiting the voices of Tennessee citizens by attempting to usurp the power of locally elected school boards. It is time for those who value and appreciate public education in Tennessee to celebrate our successes, become more informed on the various challenges our public schools face today, share ideas on supporting and improving our schools, and join forces to speak up on laws that impact our schools.

We want improvement in Tennessee schools driven by the voices of Tennessee parents and citizens, not by the out-of-state special interests that poured over $250,000 into our last election cycle to advance their agenda. Two legislative ideas already being discussed for 2013 will negatively affect the stability and strength of our schools:

1) A statewide charter school authorizer

2) Diverting tax dollars to private schools through vouchers

Join us as we “Stand Together for Strong Community Schools” and help shape education reform that truly serves ALL students and ALL communities.

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WHAT ABOUT VOUCHERS?

December 11, 2012
Here are some of our concerns about school vouchers:
  • Vouchers have not been proven to work. Despite built-in screening advantages for private schools, reports on voucher experiments in cities such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C. show these programs have not been successful in consistently raising student academic achievement.
  • Vouchers eliminate public accountability. Vouchers channel tax dollars into private schools that do not face state-approved academic standards, do not make budgets public, do not adhere to open meetings and records laws, do not publicly report on student achievement, and do not face the public accountability requirements contained in state and federal laws, including special-education laws.
  • Vouchers avert the will of citizens because, while public schools are run by elected school boards,  private schools are led by appointed boards/administrators. Vouchers remove the right of voters to make their voices heard in how they want their schools/school boards run.
  • Vouchers leave behind many disadvantaged and special needs students because private schools may not accept them or do not offer the special services they need. (Unlike public schools, private schools are not legally required to provide special education services.)
  • Vouchers do not truly provide school choice because private schools ultimately choose who they will admit to their institutions. In addition, private schools may, without warning, expel a student who does not meet their expectations.
  • Vouchers divert attention, commitment, and dollars from public schools to subsidize private-school tuition for a few students, including many who already attend private schools, creating new costs for taxpayers. A dollar spent on a tuition voucher is a dollar drained from public education.