Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Harwell's Revenge: Great Hearts Academy's Bill Takes First Step in State House

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 3:47 PM

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House Empress Beth Harwell this afternoon unveiled her bill to punish Nashville’s school board for defying the state by denying Great Hearts Academy charter school last year.

She wants to create an avenue for charter schools—and presumably Great Hearts in particular—to go to the state government for approval and bypass school boards. Ingeniously, her bill applies only to Nashville and Memphis or—as Pithster Steven Hale points out—only to cities that have pissed off the Republican supermajority.

This obviously is a crafty strategy on Harwell’s part: If she had tried to apply the bill statewide, she would have faced widespread opposition from lawmakers who don’t think it’s such a great idea for the state to big-foot their local school boards. By big-footing only Memphis and Nashville, she has to hear complaints only from those cities’ almost entirely Democratic legislative delegations, which don’t matter.

Harwell’s bill took its first step towards passage today, zipping out of the House Education subcommittee by a vote of 6-3. First, Nashville school board member Amy Frogge, who ought to run for mayor, testified against it.

“I represent a strong, silent majority here in Nashville that’s vehemently opposed to bills like this,” she said. “I am implore you to hear parents and those of us who will be directly impacted by this bill.”

She pointed out Nashville actually boasts an excellent track record with charter schools, which are “outperforming the national average.”

“I think we have shown that we are open to innovation and we are very good at managing charter schools. This bill would undermine that relationship. It would create a shotgun marriage and we would not be able to have the collaboration that we have today. It’s unfair that we are being singled out here in Davidson County.”

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