Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Charter Schools! Segregation! #TwitterSpat! GO! (Updated)

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Over at WPLN, Blake Farmer reports on some comments made by Chris Barbic, the leader of Tennessee's Achievement School District, at an education forum yesterday.

To some groans from the audience, Farmer reports, Barbic *"basically said it’s acceptable for charter schools to be somewhat segregated."

Barbic told WPLN that diversity is a "good goal" for any public school, but that it shouldn't be required for charters. He went on:

“Most schools, they are the representation of a neighborhood and most neighborhoods are folks who live together that look alike. That’s just the honest reality. I think that’s the case here in Nashville and most communities. And so I think to put that on charters that it’s something they’ve caused or are responsible for is unfair.”

As Farmer notes, some in Nashville have raised concerns that charter schools will start popping up in mostly white and affluent areas, and effectively re-segregate Nashville's schools.

This morning, Metro school board member Will Pinkston responded to Barbic's comments on Twitter:

And we're off...

Update (11:31 a.m.): State House Democrats have entered the fray, with a press release calling on Gov. Bill Haslam to "disavow" Barbic's comments. Here's the full release, including statements from Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and Caucus Chairman Mike Turner Rep. Mike Stewart:

House Democrats are calling on Governor Haslam to publicly disavow the comments by ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic that charter schools should not be held accountable for diversity.

“Only one day after the nation paused to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is disturbing to hear the head of our Achievement School District downplay the role of diversity in a well-rounded education,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “Too many people have fought too hard to bring about an integrated, well balanced school system for comments like this to move us towards resegregation.”

According to a report by WPLN's Blake Farmer, "a crowd at Lipscomb University groaned as Chris Barbic, who leads the state’s Achievement School District, basically said it’s acceptable for charter schools to be somewhat segregated."

In February of 2013, the Metro Nashville School Board adopted a plan to promote racial and socio-economic diversity in public schools in Nashville. The plan would require new charter school applicants to provide MTA transportation passes to low income students from across the city, among other initiatives.

“Governor Haslam should immediately disavow his administration from these offensive remarks by Chris Barbic,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville). “Nashville has made great strides towards promoting diversity in our public and charter schools, and we do not need Mr. Barbic coming in here and excusing or condoning a segregated school system.”

*Update (1:45 p.m.): WPLN has revised their story. The line that used to say Barbic "basically said it’s acceptable for charter schools to be somewhat segregated" now reads "acknowledged the reality that charter schools are largely segregated." The story also now includes audio of Barbic speaking to Farmer.

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