The officials were mostly Democrats but there were a few Republicans too, including council member Steve Glover who announced he’s filing a resolution to put the city on record against Harwell’s bill.
Critics contend charter schools will pop up all over the more affluent, white parts of town if Harwell’s bill becomes law and, among other points, Glover’s resolution warns it “could have the effect of resegregating schools and hindering the academic gains” of Nashville’s children. He said he will ask the council to adopt the resolution tomorrow night. The bill is up in the House Education Committee tomorrow afternoon.
“This legislation is for lack of a better term horrid,” said school board chair Cheryl Mayes. “It will not serve our children well.”
State Rep. Brenda Gilmore raised the specter of the segregation era when it was her turn to speak.
“This move to take over the school system here in Davidson County shows utter disrespect for our local citizens. … I’m reminded of the argument years ago of separate but equal. And this move is reminiscent of that,” she said.
Dean’s name came up only when a reporter asked about his absence. A big proponent of charter schools and fan of school choice crusader Michelle Rhee, the mayor has come out in favor of Harwell’s bill. He has been critical in the past of the school board as resistant to change.
“Nobody’s going to care for these kids as much as we do,” said Glover, a former school board member. “Whether the mayor’s correct or not, we disagree on philosophy. The school board’s quite capable of doing its job.”
Outside the press conference in Legislative Plaza, the House’s third-ranking Republican, Glen Casada, defended Harwell’s power play. She acknowledges she’s pursuing this because the school board refused to authorize Great Hearts charter school for West Nashville last year. But perhaps realizing that sounds a little vindictive, Casada made it sound like some kind of grand experiment in school reform.
“This is coming from the speaker’s office, but the governor does approve of the legislation,” Casada said.
Asked why the bill applies only to Nashville and Memphis, he replied, “What we intend to do is move forward, not to the point to where it’s a total shock to the entire system. Go slow. When you do new things, go slow. And we’ve had charter schools for a couple of years. They’ve proven successful. Now it’s time to expand that to the next level. We want to attack the problem. Where’s the predominant number of charter schools? Where’s the predominant number of children who are not receiving adequate education?”
Asked why this isn’t a violation of Republican small-government principles, he said, “What we don’t want is government at any level to impose its will on the parents. Parents want the ability to choose where their kids go to school and not attend a failing school.”