"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

McIntyre's Plan to Charterize Knoxville Schools

It was 2008 when Pilot Oil magnate Bill Haslam and the Chamber of Commerce boys in Knoxville put their school board posse onto a jet to head up to Boston to fetch down a fresh Broad-trained graduate to begin Knox County's transition to corporatized schools.

The latest stealth attack by corporate stooge, Supt. Jim McIntyre, comes in the form a brazen attempt to put himself in charge of deciding which public schools in Knoxville will be converted into corporate welfare charter schools.  From the RFP, p. 4:

Conversion of existing schools to charters may be initiated through reorganization decisions made by the Director of Schools (reconstitutions, etc.), through charter decisions by the Board of Education, or through consideration of charter petitions by 75% of faculty and/or 75% of families at the school to be potentially converted.  
And who gave McIntyre the authority to institute the constitutionally-challenged Parent Trigger?  Where is the Board of Education?

Thanks to diligent public school advocates in Knoxville, this scam has been uncovered and the corporate tabloid, the Knoxville News Sentinel has been called to task. From Knox Views:

Buried in yesterday's KNS is this article reporting that the Knox County School System has issued a Request for Proposals seeking charter school applications for both new and "converted" charter schools.
According to the article:
"We want to make sure if a charter school applicant puts forth a proposal for a charter school that … it isn't a boilerplate from another application they did in Ohio or Indiana," McIntyre said. "But that it's an application and a proposal that is very specific to meeting the educational needs of students in Knox County."
Which is curious, because the RFP (found here) looks almost exactly like the one used by the Nashville school system, which appears to be in the process of outsourcing public education over there.
Anyway, why don't the charter school goals and requirements stated in the RFP already apply to public schools?
Tamara Shepherd's picture
Sent to KNS publisher Patrick Birmingham, editor Jack McElroy, editorial page editor Scott Barker, local editior John North, education reporter Lydia McCoy:

Knowing that other Tennessee school districts are now issuing Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from charter school applicants, I have been expecting an action of this sort from Knox County Schools (KCS), too.

It was no surprise to me, then, to note your newspaper’s story on the subject last Saturday.
It was no surprise to me, either, that I once again had numerous objections to the utter and complete lack of curiosity on this compelling topic harbored by your newspaper and demonstrated by your account of this latest development in so-called “education reform” underway in Tennessee and across the nation.

That KNS gave this important story the innocuous headline "District changes charter school application process" foretold the shallow and inadequate report that was to follow.
The KNS article failed to define for readers what is meant by a "request for proposal (RFP) process," i.e., that it is an active solicitation on the part of KCS, in this case for charter school applicants.

As to soliciting applications for new charter schools, the KNS article failed to report who serves on this Charter School Review Committee, how they came to serve there, how and/or when the composition of the Committee might be altered in the future, or by what impetus the Committee might be altered.

The KNS article failed to report that the RFP solicits proposals to convert existing schools to charters, too (pdf page 4 in the RFP).

As to soliciting applications to convert our existing schools into charters, the KNS article also failed to report that the RFP allows the Director of Schools to make decisions on such conversion applications independent of the school board (also pdf page 4, same).

The KNS article also failed to report that the just approved written policy guiding the formation of charter schools applies only to “newly created” charter schools, not to such conversion applications. Neither did the KNS article link that limited written policy.

The KNS article failed to report any details whatsoever as to how, in the absence of any written policy, the Director of Schools might go about exercising all by his lonesome this new power to convert our existing schools to charters.

This KNS article also passed on an excellent opportunity to spell out for readers which for-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs) already deliver services to existing Tennessee charter schools, as is allowable under state law.

Jack et al, I am someone who has always declined to seek news from our broadcast media, primarily because of their propensity to reduce complicated issues into three-sentences-and-a-sound-bite and leave me scrambling to find the answers to other of my questions on the Internet.
In the past, I have therefore relied heavily on the Knoxville News-Sentinel to give me a more complete understanding of complicated issues, and to offer me convenient links to the source documents on which your reports rely.

On the compelling issue of so-called “education reform” efforts underway regionally and nationally, though—so rife with opportunity for private profiteering--you folks flat aren’t giving me the information I need.

And the only reason I know you’re not is because I seem to already have more information than you do.

Unless you’re just sitting on information?

So I have to ask you straight out: Is the KNS reporting I’m reading on this topic inept or is it insidious?

Tamara Shepherd


  1. Anonymous9:04 PM

    Tamara Shepherd, excellent observation, well done.
    Vic S.