Monday, September 24, 2012

Belle Meade council member appears to have itchy trigger finger

(Full disclosure: I have been openly one of the strongest supporters of Emily Evans many times on this blog, which makes this post a difficult one for me to write.)

During an online discussion tonight on the possibility of a parent trigger Metro Council member Emily Evans tweeted:

Note that she did not include teachers in the trigger equation of being "driven bw district and parents". That exclusion seems par for the ambivalent course that trigger fans seem to tee off on. Triggers channel parent anger not in democratic or progressive ways, but in ways that promote privatization of public education and increase public subsidies for private enterprise. The trigger is a deliberate wedge between organized parents and organized teachers, both of whom can usually be brought together to act for the greater good of public school kids. It is divide and conquer, and the conquerors are partisan politicians angling for influence and wealthy corporations drooling at tax revenues. So, Ms. Evans' omission of teachers is not inconsequential in my opinion.

And then there is that unabashedly curious and deliciously contradictory claim she makes that "this acrimony" (by which I assume she means the controversy engendered at every stop around the country by the parent trigger tour) is not of Nashville itself. The parent trigger is an unrealized project that started in California by charter school leadership shortly after former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed education reform legislation. The group founded by a charter school leadership to promote it, Parent Revolution, is not even located east of the Rockies, let alone east of Little Rock.

The parent trigger "movement" itself is astroturf alien to Nashville, and yet, the kumbaya that Emily Evans predicts can happen with a trigger inspired from the outside is somehow indigenous and home-grown? Maybe she is doubling down that certain voices in Karl Dean's Nashville will be ignored or yelled down and that the debate will not turn against her bid to bring charter schools to wealthy Belle Meade. Otherwise, her minimizing of local opposition to the parent trigger (which is as honestly found as her chosen hard sell) seems to me at my most charitable moment utterly passive-aggressive.

I'm originally from Texas, so I guess I am ultimately an out-of-towner. I have lived in Nashville half of my life (since 1989), but maybe I still don't qualify as local. However, I do have two daughters both of whom were born in Nashville. My daughters attended or are attending Metro public schools. So, perhaps being the parent of these two MNPS daughters should qualify me to take issue with Ms. Evans' latest pet project without the insinuation that my dissent, that our dissent is not authentically Nashville.

I have skin in this game and I am a Nashvillian. No degree of gainsaying by charter promoters will change the fact that I am here and I will speak out prompted by nobody from the outside.

CM Evans has gone from being one the bolder mavericks on Metro Council to one of the most risk-averse members in my book. She struck me as an uncritical advocate of charter schools back when the Great Hearts project started taking flight. I've not been this disappointed in her since she voted for Eric Crafton's English Only. It seems her tenure on council, which for a couple of years roared like a lion on funding the new convention center, is ending about as gritty as a lamb.

Pushing through a parent trigger in Nashville is not going to give parents more power simply by flipping a bona fide school (in Evans' district the average school would not be facing challenges of serving working class or impoverished families) to a privately-run charter school. This needs to be heard going away: the parents may end up left out of the equation after the trigger is squeezed. And there are devils they do not know lying in wait. If this is to be a fair debate on parent trigger it cannot be stacked in favor of the promoters to the exclusion of the critics or of the risks involved. Emily Evans at least owes the public debate more than trying to sway it from her position of influence with prejudiced outsider/insider spin.

UPDATE:  In a tweet earlier tonight from the Nashville screening of the parent trigger promotional flick, "Won't Back Down," Nashville City Paper reporter Joey Garrison tweeted:

This film paints teachers' unions as out-of-touch with the wrong priorities, and characterizes school districts as bureaucratic wrecks.

His observation is consistent with what I wrote earlier about the ill will trigger proponents tend to bear toward unions.


  1. She hates Jesse Register. She likes publicity. Both in large proportions. This gets her both. Good timing on her part.

  2. Good Morning Mike: I gather you got that tweet indirectly and not from my feed.
    Twitter as you know is limited to 140 characters and so I think most people know that context is hard to discern. In the case of a tweet that was mailed to you, what little context there was around 140 characters is completely eliminated. The people from "out of town" is a reference to to ChildrenFirst, a sponsor of last night's event, which is based in Sacremento. The Memphis reference pertains to an old local joke that was given its most poetic explanation in Peter Taylor's "A Summons to Memphis."

    Since you don't live in my district and you are relying on tweets to determine a policy or community objective, you have missed a lot of valauble and relevant information. So, let me invite you to coffee and I can tell you about the teachers and parents that suggested I pursue this question and why. I can also tell you why I think the current path we are on is both unsustainable and unwise.

    Feel free to email me with some times you are available. I look forward to hearing from you.- Emily

  3. I completely understand, Council Member, why you would assume that I get my blog fodder from emails sent by those in certain stations in local political life.

    However, I sometimes do a little research on my own, often using Twitter (among others) as a search tool. Last night I did the same thing searching for tweets on Nashville’s pep rally for parent triggers down at the cinema. I’m sure you have perfectly valid reasons for blocking me on Twitter, but you need to know that I can still see your tweets when you reply to the tweets of others who have not blocked me (and yes, I was able to read the thread that provided the context for your tweet above, ending with the invitation to another local blogger to tea in order to chat about how the trigger was implemented in Memphis and how it can be implemented here). When finding your tweets in search, I can still screenshot them and put them on my blog for comment and interpretation, unless you convince all of your conversation partners to block me, too.

    I’m still not sure why you assume I would need the prompting of others (or outsiders) to develop my own honestly held views on any policy. But the charge has a familiar ring to it: your political opponents often accused me of the same thing when I blogged to your benefit.

    Oddly enough, even if I granted your speculation that someone sent me information, I do not recall you objecting to crowdsourcing blog posts in the past when the information served your cause. However, your political opponents often did so when I blogged to your benefit.

    For good measure, it should be pointed out that I also do not follow Joey Garrison on Twitter, but I was still able to find his tweet on Won’t Back Down referenced above during my search. I also do not subscribe to the Tennessean, but I managed to find--on my own Google News search, mind you--your comment there that charter-friendly parents are discouraged by ceding control to the school district (with no nod to the point that charter parents cede control to a private board).

    Yes, let’s have coffee sometime. I’d like to chat over old times and where the devil they went.