Dean's preference for local authority doesn't extend to charter schools

Monday, February 18, 2013 at 11:38pm



It was not a surprise when legislation creating a way for charter schools to circumvent local school boards showed up at the state legislature last week. The proposal, which came by way of an amendment to a previously un-noteworthy bill, is aimed only at Nashville and Memphis, and would allow charter schools to apply straight to the State Board of Education if the local school board has twice been asked to reverse a rejection.

Similarly unsurprising was a statement from Mayor Karl Dean’s office effectively supporting the idea. Last year, Dean supported Great Hearts Academies in its fight with the Metro school board — even writing a letter to the state board requesting that they approve the school’s application, overturning the Metro board’s decision — and the new state legislation would seem to be tailored to fit just such a case.

“Mayor Dean’s focus will always be on student achievement and providing opportunities for children to go to great schools,” said Dean spokeswoman Bonna Johnson. “While achievement in our schools is improving, the reality is that the rate of progress is too slow, and our students do not have the luxury of time. The status quo is not our friend. Quality charter schools have proven to accelerate achievement. Mayor Dean supports measures that help to provide more high-performing options for our students. Mayor Dean believes the city’s top priority is to increase student achievement, and he supports whatever will help accomplish that goal as soon as possible.”

But the mayor’s tacit support for transferring some of the locally elected school board’s authority to the appointed state board did raise some eyebrows, especially when compared to his past statements about local autonomy.

In 2011, Dean signed into law an anti-discrimination ordinance even as state legislators were mounting an attempt to nullify it with a law of their own. They would eventually succeed. But on the day he signed the local ordinance, Dean spoke out against attempts by the state to usurp the authority of local government.

“As for pending legislation at the state level related to this, I believe the decisions of locally elected government bodies should be respected by the legislature,” he said in a statement at the time. “The passage of this legislation is consistent with actions taken by a number of cities in all parts of the United States. This is not the time to abandon our belief in local government.”

Less than a year later, Dean was at odds with state lawmakers again, this time over state legislation that would have affected — or “gutted” according to the strongest critics — Metro’s ability to enforce zoning regulations. At that time, a statement from Johnson said the mayor could not “support anything that limits the power of local governments to protect neighborhoods and the quality of life of our residents.”

When it comes to charter schools, though, Dean has not toed the same line — an irksome development to some other local officials.

“Last year, the state proposed doing some planning and zoning codes, and his office fought that and said, ‘No, no, no. We are the local government.’ Now we can’t have it both ways,” said Metro Councilman Steve Glover.

“I absolutely say it’s a contradiction,” he continued. “We either want the state running it, or we want to have our local government running it.”

Johnson told The City Paper that the difference between the state charter authorizer and past instances when the state-vs.-local debate has arisen is that “this proposal expands choice, where the other proposals you cite were intended to eliminate opportunities.” While the mayor does not support legislation that “limits the power of local governments to protect neighborhoods and the quality of life of our residents,” she said, this legislation “aims to enhance the quality of life by giving families more options.”

“When it comes to schools, Mayor Dean believes the most important “local control” is the power every parent should have to choose a high-quality school for their child, regardless of income or zip code,” Johnson said in an emailed statement.

Dean’s belief that “the most important ‘local control is the power of every parent” would seem to spring from the same set of talking points House Speaker Beth Harwell was working off of, in an interview the same day Johnson gave her statement to The City Paper. Harwell told the Nashville Scene that “we have a responsibility in this state to allow the most local person to have an option here, and the local person here is the parent.”

Glover, a former Metro school board member, sponsored a council resolution in December insisting that the state grant extra funds to local school districts if it decided to create a voucher program or a state charter authorizer.

“I just feel like the state needs to let the local board of education do its job,” he said. “If they’re going to insist on giving us unfunded mandates, they need to fund it fully. Don’t take the money out of our pocket. If they feel so certain that it’s what is needed, then they need to fund it.”

As a Metro Council member and freshman state representative, Darren Jernigan has seat in both levels of government, after he defeated Republican Rep. Jim Gotto in the fall. Gotto was himself a multitasking councilman and state representative who had been part of the state push to nullify Metro’s anti-discrimination ordinance, and was the sponsor of the zoning bills Dean opposed. Jernigan declined to characterize the mayor’s differentiation between this debate over state and local authority, and others, but he does disagree with it.

“The closer our government is to the people, the better,” he said. “From local, state, even to federal. An example, even in the Great Hearts matter: You have a [school board] that spent two or three meetings of hours and hours of debate, and when it got to the state? It took them 14 minutes. Bam. Overturned
it. There’s no skin in the game for them.”

Glover’s nonbinding, memorializing resolution has no real legislative weight. But it did pass the council without opposition, and he said the state should have more respect for that.

“The Metro Council voted unanimously,” he said. “Unanimously. And the last time I checked, we represent the people, and we voted unanimously to say, ‘State, if you’re going to make us take something that our local authorities don’t feel like it’s within the foundation that will actually make the overall district better, then you pay for it.’ If it’s so great, you pay for it.”

20 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 2/19/13 at 5:45

I suspect he is jockeying for a run at a higher office. How better to impress the party bosses by demonstrating how easily you can alter your rock solid but malleable core beliefs to suit the situation.

Another empty suit who will have fleeced Nashville then moved on to greener pastures.

By: Loner on 2/19/13 at 6:24

Sweetheart deal? Kickback? Skimming? Quid pro quo? Graft?

Follow the money....this does not pass the smell test.

By: Loner on 2/19/13 at 6:33

Could be this is Mayor Dean's stealth ministry? Promoting Christian schools that are posing as "Charter Schools" could be Dean's master's obvious that Gov Haslam wants more taxpayer support for Christian education...Dean is probably going along to get along.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/19/13 at 7:22

If the State wants to run Metro school system, then the State should pay to run the District. However the way the States runs everything else, the School district will be ran to ground and the Fed will have to take over.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/19/13 at 7:37

By: yogiman on 2/17/13 at 11:30
Sadly, budlight, but the children born in the USA to illegal alien mothers are given American citizenship... by our congress.

People born in this country are Natural born citizens.

By: yogiman on 1/26/13 at 3:13
dumba$$, you couldn't even pass a spelling test, let alone a test of intelligence.

Want to try one? Check on google or bing and take a test.

By: Captain Nemo on 1/26/13 at 3:33
I took the test yogi and a made a 100.

By: yogiman on 1/26/13 at 7:30
I feel so humiliated, dumba$$, to get beat by an idiot as ignorant as you.

Your own word says I am smarter than you, yogi.

By: Loner on 2/19/13 at 7:42

Nashville should draw up articles of secession from the state of Tennessee....beat the state at its own game....Declare the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Nashville....then apply for admission to the union as the state of Nashville.

By: Loner on 2/19/13 at 7:46

Yes, Captain, you are smarter than the average bear...but, are you smarter than Boo Boo? Yogi's little sidekick was the brains of the dynamic duo...Boo Boo actually did Ranger Rick's taxes for him.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/19/13 at 7:52

Ranger Rick retired a rich man, because of Boo Boo.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/19/13 at 7:55

Speaking of Boo, Boos where is our dorky monk? He should be telling us how rich he wants us to believe he is by now.

By: Loner on 2/19/13 at 8:03

Warren Buffet routinely called Boo Boo for investment advice....Alan Greenspan reputedly relied upon Boo Boo's sage counsel.....Boo Boo was the "silent partner" in many financial deals...back in the 60's bears were not allowed to enter into legal contracts, so Boo Boo used proxies.

By: Loner on 2/19/13 at 8:10

The up for debate board is the usual gathering place....he'll show up there....and we already know what his schtick will be: Class Envy.....Contempt for the poor....personal attacks on the "simple six"...bragging about his fantasy life....same old tune...he's a zombie mad monk....looking for his lost organ....pathetic.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/19/13 at 8:12

Raspy old boy you don't even have a TV show.

6. You have to be narcissistic to be successful. Narcissism isn't linked to success. Self-esteem isn't even linked to success. So why do people make this association? It's partly because we think that self-admiration is always good, and it's partly because highly successful narcissists are highly visible, like Donald Trump and Paris Hilton. But there are plenty of people who are successful in those fields who we haven't heard of because they don't have their own TV show with "Money, Money, Money" playing in the theme song. They're just as successful; they're just not on TV.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/19/13 at 8:13

I am proud to be a simple six. It is not being yogi’s equal.

By: KENW on 2/19/13 at 9:57

Who are these idiots claiming that the charter schools are really Christian schools? Seriously? Are you so freakin' stupid that you actually believe that, or are you simply lying? Stupid, ignorant idiots.

And for those that think the State will run the school system into the ground and the Feds will have to take do realize that the local school board has failed so miserably that it was suppose to be taken over by the State already? It didn't happen only because of a deal struck between the local system and the State. So this idea that the State would run it into the ground is silly, because the local board has already run it into the ground.

Denying Great Hearts had nothing to do with religion, diversity or transportation. Great Hearts is not a "Christian" school system. Metro Nashville Public Schools did not have a diversity plan at the time this charter was denied, and they only have one guessed it...for charter schools, it doesn't even apply to their own schools! (How's that for liberal hypocrisy?) The current charter schools that they do have are about 98% black. No one will argue that constitutes "diversity".

If your child is lucky enough to win the lottery (or fit into one of quotas for the many special interest groups) and get into Hume Fogg or MLK, guess what, you have to provide your own transportation. And parents from all over this county do so on a regular basis. They would have been happy to do so for Great Hearts as well.

The local school board doesn't want any threat of another school that outperforms them. It's a power and control play, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with a quality education for your child. If it did, they would have approved the Great Hearts proposal and allowed some high performing schools into the district giving your children better opportunities than they have now with this failing, locally controlled, Nashville School System.

By: pswindle on 2/19/13 at 10:24

This is all about the Edu. Sec. and his ex-wife Rhee. They want their share of Metro's money. Why do you think that they are pushing Haslam so hard to get control of Charter Schools in the two system with the most money, Metro and Memphis? Wake Up Tennessee!

By: localboy on 2/19/13 at 10:34

KENW I believe Loner is posting from somewhere in NY, so he can be forgiven for his opinion about our local issues...give him a break, he means well.

By: Moonglow1 on 2/19/13 at 10:36

Moonglow1: Dean, you should be ashamed of yourself for supporting tax payer dollars to fund for-profit charter schools. Instead, we want our tax dollars to fund and support public education, not some for-profit enterprise whose CEO will make millions at my expense. Get a grip. Quit espousing fascism like the Tea party. Get with the 21st Century and listen to the "people" for once. No I won't vote for you again if you continue to follow the Tea agenda. Why because I elected you to fight for my interests not for the interests of the for-profit schools.

By: ConservativeSailor on 2/19/13 at 4:54

A long time ago there was a TV ad against Richard M. Nixon. His picture (5-o'clock shadow, scowling) with the caption "Would you buy a car from this man?".
Might apply here. This is the mayor who raised our property taxes and is a proponent of a budget that pays foreign (non-Tennessee) providers per-student funds without any objective way to measure their performance.
He favors lifetime subsidy for Metro Council members (I believe that includes his position) health insurance (75% paid by the county). These folks, honest or not, only serve eight years max by law. They should not, nor should their spouse(s), dependent children or dependent mothers (not dependent fathers, note) receive ANY ongoing benefit after EIGHT YEARS (less in certain circumstances) of service.
How long do YOU have to work to get lifetime subsidized medical care?

By: bfra on 2/20/13 at 6:57

Dean & his council puppets never saw a tax they didn't like (as long as they could camouflage where it was really going) & it was really going to their advantage, one way or the other.

By: pswindle on 2/20/13 at 10:57

Dean has put his mouth where the money is.