Q: Why did you limit it to just Nashville and Memphis?
Harwell: These are the school systems where it will have an impact. The bill is not in its final stages. We’re still working through it. We’ll be meeting on it additionally. I’ve got additional input from folks. Ultimately what we want to do is have as many choices available to the parents here in Nashville as possible. I don’t want just any public charter school here in this state. … I am all about a bad public charter school being closed. I think the most critical thing is we close bad public charter schools. But we did have an issue here in Nashville where there was a public charter school applicant that was a very good one. We actively recruited Great Hearts to come to this city, and I just would like to avoid what we went through.
Q: The Democrats had a media avail this morning. Mike Turner is upset about your bill. He says you’re trying to resegregate schools in Nashville. What do you say to that?
Harwell: That is not my goal at all. If anything, the current charter schools that exist are located in our lower income areas. They are close to about 98 percent minority members. The ones that are doing well are doing exceptionally well. This would have actually made it possible for more diversity within our public charter school system, I believe. …
Q: How would the schools be more diverse? You mean more white?
Q: Republicans say the best government is the one that’s closest to the people. This seems to fly in the face of that.
Harwell: No, I don’t think it does. 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. You can’t get much more local than that. I have a lot of parents, not only in my district but others, who wanted this option in our public school system. I am all about promoting and having the best public school system this city can have and right now we’re just simply not there.
Q: Turner says the biggest critics of the public school system are the people who sent their kids to private schools. I think he’s talking about you. Your kids go to Ensworth, right?
Harwell: They’re now at Montgomery Bell Academy. I have two boys.
Q: Well, what do you say to that criticism?
Harwell: I would love the option of having a public charter preparatory school that would be of the highest caliber … I would love to have that option here in public schools in Nashville because I would take it.