Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Politically connected news media board president compares school board decision to segregationist governor

The president of the board of directors of the parent company of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville City Paper, Townes Duncan, is a charter school advocate. He is such an avid advocate that he started a PAC to elect pro-charter candidates to the school board with a family member of Mayor Karl Dean, who also happens to be a fan of charter schools. Mr. Duncan sent out an e-mail blast last June when the school board deferred consideration of the application of Great Hearts Academy, suggesting that the board was ruled by "Forces of Darkness" who place "adult needs" over student achievement.

Last night the school board, in defiance of a state order to accept the Great Hearts application, took the surprising step of denial of the Arizona-based charter school's application. Predictably, Mayor Dean indicated that the denial was illegal.

For his part, Mr. Duncan fired off a tweet that compared the Metro Nashville school board decision with the 1957 segregationist actions of Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, blocking the Little Rock Nine in order to appease racist anger at federal desegregation orders:

I guess if you are tight with this Mayor you can get away with comparing declining the application of a private corporation to come in and privatize public schools (based on the faulty, unexamined, undemonstrated logic that charter schools will stop affluent parents from pulling their kids out of Metro schools) with denying African American children their constitutional right to public education.

Charter schools are essentially "public" private schools that take applications. Hence, they can deny students access themselves free from bureaucratic obligation. But somehow, Mr. Duncan twists that reality to a level equal to the noble cause of granting free access to public education to all people irrespective of character, creed or color. Obviously, up has become down and inside has become out in the newspeak of privatized education.

Not from last night's school board meeting:
Faubus plays to all-white crowd & confederate flag
For my part, I believe Great Hearts will eventually win approval because MNPS Director Jesse Register has already started Metro Public Schools down the slippery slope of privatization. So, I don't understand the dust-up by fans and evangelists of charter schools. They are overplaying their hand with the whining. At last night's meeting, the establishment of Metro charter schools was cited several times as precedent for accepting other comers like Great Hearts. So, it's just a matter of time before Great Hearts wins this, in my opinion. But just like there is no basis for the argument that charter schools will retain wealthy parents, so there is no evidence that charters perform any better than bona fide (a.k.a. "neighborhood") public schools.

And there is no need for charter supporters to make ridiculous comparisons to civil rights history. For Mr. Duncan to take the low road of specious comparisons while Mayor Dean kicks at the decision from on high may leverage a different board decision in the future, but neither will change the realities of education or those of history.

UPDATE: And 24 hours later, the Nashville Scene editor updates to get out front on the story of his company's board president's regrettable tweets. Jump to the slow-pokey post. Not exactly breaking news.

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