Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education

Tenn. Withholds $3.4 Million From Nashville Schools Over Charter Refusal

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 19, 2012 2 min read

The metropolitan Nashville school system has 81,000 students, about 70 percent of whom receive free or reduced-price meals, according to the district. In addition, nearly one-quarter of the district’s students come from homes where English is not the native language. That level of diversity and economic hardship, the district says, is one of the reasons the district repeatedly rejected an application by Great Hearts Academies to open a charter school, saying that affluent students would be over-represented in the proposed school’s population because of the school’s proposed location.

That reasoning was not good enough for the Tennessee education department, which announced earlier this week that it would not change its decision to withhold $3.4 million in state aid from Nashville schools because, state officials said, the district violated state law by rejecting the charter. As Stephanie Banchero explains in the Wall Street Journal, the school had met all other state requirements, and a state law passed last year allows any child in the public school system, regardless of economic status, to enroll in charters.

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said the department had “no choice but to take this action,” while Speaker of the House Beth Harwell argued that the district had two chances to “follow the law” but chose not to on both occasions. (The district has rejected the school’s application twice.) States don’t simply withhold money from districts every day of the week, so Tennessee’s decision to keep the cash out of Nashville’s coffers is a notable conflict between states and districts.

The $3.4 million is officially labeled as non-instructional money that would have been used for administrative purposes, although on its “On (Public) Education” blog, the district argued that the lost state aid would still “directly affect students and classrooms.”

In a July 27 blog post, the district, in a letter to the state school board explaining its rejection of Great Hearts’ proposal, delved into the demographic issue more deeply. It highlighted the makeup of 12 Great Hearts schools in Arizona (where Great Hearts Academies is based) listed black students as less than 9 percent of their total enrollment; none of the schools listed Hispanic enrollment as greater than 23 percent of their total enrollment; and all but one of the schools had less than 13 percent of its students receiving free and reduced-price meals.

In addition, among the schools identified by the no more than 8 percent of Great Hearts students are in special education programs, and no school had more than 1.2 percent of its students in English-language-learner programs.

Saying that Great Hearts “claims” to use a “blind, lottery process” to enroll students at the Arizona schools, the Nashville school district’s director, Jesse Register, wrote: "(The) resulting segregation is unacceptable.”

It should be noted, however, that the Great Hearts website lists 15 schools currently open, all in Arizona. North Phoenix Prep, Maryvale Prep, and Archway North Phoenix are not listed on the Nashville district’s blog post.

As my colleague Sean Cavanagh wrote in a blog post at “Charters and Choice” last month, Great Hearts said it has given up on efforts to open a charter school in Nashville anyway, given the hostile district board. The group’s chief academic officer also told Sean that it broadly markets its schools and tries to locate them in central, easily-accessible areas. Obviously, Nashville school officials disagreed on that last point.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read