With Nashville evidently placing its chips on charter schools as the future of the city's education system, The City Paper's Joey Garrison details the behind-the-scenes politicking that's becoming a factor in the process of developing — and situating — new charters:
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, multiple sources have told The City Paper, has on more than one occasion conveyed to Metro school officials his desire for school-board approval of one of Nashville’s newly proposed charter hopefuls: Great Hearts Academies, an Arizona-based charter organization, which has proposed an initial K-12 liberal arts charter school in Nashville, along with a long-term plan for a network of five countywide.
Backed by political heavyweights and the source of considerable buzz, Great Hearts would fill a new niche here. The school, as its application states, would take advantage of the state’s new open enrollment law –– thus it wouldn’t just welcome economically disadvantaged students, whom Nashville charters have historically served, but those from affluent families as well. There’s a clear audience: parents of students who struck out in the district’s magnet lottery, are unenthused about traditional public schools, and are thus teetering on the edge of opting for private schooling.
Huffman’s push for Great Hearts in Nashville may seem like a stretch from his role as the head of the state education department. But in a prepared statement, he said part of his job is to recruit talent to Tennessee, adding that he spends a “fair amount of time talking to great leaders in other states including those of the top-performing charter schools.”