Some well-heeled parents in Nashville are alarmed at the sudden hard-sell they’re receiving from an Arizona-based charter school company trying to worm its way into Metro Nashville. Parents of several Metro students received this personal unsolicited e-mail from Great Hearts Academies:
Rightfully so, parents are angry that their private e-mail addresses were released to this group, and puzzled why they’re being asked to lobby for them to show the school board some non-existent “overwhelming demand.” They’re even being asked to sign an online petition and directed to social media sites. Parents want to know how this breach of private information happened and I don’t blame them; I’d be pissed off, too.
It’s also been revealed that Great Hearts has hired PR agency The Calvert Street Group to help grease the skids. You remember them: they’re the people behind the fake grassroots efforts to save the fairgrounds and kill the new convention center. Ah, is that the sweet perfume of merde wafting my way?
Whenever I see an outside group barge their way into town with heavy-handed tactics like obtaining peoples’ private e-mail addresses and hiring high-powered PR agencies, my bullshit detector goes into overdrive. And then there’s this about The Calvert Street Group:
Copeland, a former Democratic Party operative, has a history of engaging in contentious land-use issues in Nashville. Before founding The Calvert Street Group, Copeland worked for Saint Consulting Group, a company that “specializes in winning zoning and land-use battles,” according to the company’s website. In 2009, Saint Consulting worked on behalf of the developers of the controversial May Town Center, a mixed-use development proposed for the rural Bells Bend community that drew the ire of neighbors before the Metro Planning Commission defeated it.
Looks to me like Great Hearts rode into town loaded for bear. You don’t hire an agency known for ginning up divisive, bitter, community battles if you weren’t planning to wage war. Divide and conquer, works all the time.
Frankly, I find the letter they sent Nashville parents a little disingenuous. Saying Nashville parents have few choices is bullshit; they have plenty of choices. If they don’t like the public school where they’re zoned and their kid doesn’t make the magnet school cut, there are a gazillion private schools, both religious and secular. Heck, I know a group of parents who started their own “school” under a homeschool model. They pooled their money and paid a teacher three hours a day to teach 10 kids.
Oh, you say you don’t think you should pay for private school? Why is that, exactly? Because you pay taxes? Well suck it up. Lots of us taxpayers don’t have any kids at all. We still pay for the schools, and why shouldn’t we? It helps us when the city’s kids are educated, in school, and off the streets. We reap the community benefit, even if we don’t have kids enrolled.
These charter schools aren’t setting up shop in the inner city, they’re hitting Nashville’s wealthy neighborhoods. They’re sucking the students with all of the best advantages out of the system, leaving public schools for the families with few resources and opportunities. Robbing a cash-strapped Peter to pay wealthy Paul doesn’t help Peter’s kids one bit, it just further isolates them. I just don’t buy the argument. As this letter writer observed, operations like Great Hearts are just a way for parents to get their kids into private school on the public dime.
I don’t know much about Great Hearts except that the president of their board of directors is Jay Heiler, one of those right wing wackadoodles of the Barry Goldwater/Joe McCarthy mold. He’s on the record for making intolerant statements about immigrants and gays, which didn’t stop Arizona Gov. Jan (Finger Wag) Brewer from recently appointing him to the Arizona Board of Regents. This prompted much wailing and gnashing of teeth out in Arizona (you can read some of it here).
So, this is who wants to come to Nashville and open schools and teach your kids about hating gays and immigrants. Expect the schools to be predominantly white and in upper class neighborhoods — not exactly the communities underserved in the education department, but big shocker there. And they’ve come in, guns a-blazin’, with the hard-sell and the fancy PR firm and the online petitions.
If it kinda feels like this thing is being rammed down our throats, well, there’s a reason: it is.