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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Huffman and Barbic Targets of Lawsuit in Tennessee

Kevin Huffman took just one month after his appointment as Commissioner of Education in April 2011 to choose former CEO of YES Prep Charter Schools as Superintendent of Tennessee's new Achievement School District, the State office that would coordinate the charterizing of Memphis and Nashville schools. 

At that time, the betting started on how many months it would take for Yes Prep, where Barbic had been CEO prior to coming to Tennessee, to claim a piece of the action in the lava-hot charter market in Memphis. 

It took just over 24 months, and in September 2013, YES Prep announced plans to open six (6) new charter schools in Memphis

Now it looks as if one of the jilted would-be profiteers who missed a cut of the action is suing Huffman and Barbic in Shelby County's 30th Judicial District of Chancery Court.  Stay tuned.

The following report is from TNParents.org:

Rodney O. Ursery, J.D. and Clara D. West, Ph.D. are the Plaintiffs Who Filed the Lawsuit In Pro Se

Memphis, TN (September 8, 2014) – Rodney O. Ursery and Clara D. West, two former applicants for a charter operator’s authorization for the 2014/2015 school year, have filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Kevin Huffman, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Education (“TDOE”); Chris Barbic, Superintendent of the Tennessee Achievement School District (“TASD”); as well as the TDOE and TASD; along with two other defendants: the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (“NACSA”) and YES Preparatory Academy (“YES Prep”).

Among the thirteen causes of action, the complaint alleges unfair business practices, violations of Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, civil conspiracy, and violations of constitutionally protected rights. The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting YES Prep, a charter school enterprise headquartered in Texas, from opening schools that it illegally obtained in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil action, which also requests a jury trial, was filed in the 30th Judicial District Chancery Court, Shelby County, Tennessee.

Ursery states, “For far too long, it has been recognized and stated in the court of public opinion that Huffman and Barbic have utterly abused the power of their positions when it comes to regulating the Tennessee's school system. Now, I’m confident that their reign of terror, which has been plagued with conspiracies among crooks and cronies, will finally be revealed in a court of law, that is, if justice prevails.” West added, “It's as if we have to fight Brown v. Topeka Board of Education again. Our proposal offered equity in education through student-centered learning using individualized learning plans and iPads, just like the countries that consistently outrank the U.S. in education. We were unfairly denied the opportunity to help educate the lowest-performing students, who the system has already left behind and identified as the future prison population. It's all about leveling the playing field.”

According to the complaint, the defendants deliberately designed and implemented discriminatory selection and approval practices, customs and procedures to deny Plaintiffs’ application. The lawsuit further alleges that during the time when TASD solicited Requests for Qualification to apply for a charter operator’s authorization for the 2014/2015 school year, Barbic, TASD and NACSA conspired to approve charter operator’s authorization(s) for the 2015/2016 school year, an opportunity, which was made available only to YES Prep. It is alleged that Barbic, founder and former Chief Executive Officer of YES Prep, illegally authorized YES Prep to seize nearly 6,000 elementary school students in Memphis, TN.

Moreover, the lawsuit alleges that NACSA, who “partnered with” TASD to provide support and management services for the application process, is not a “professional” organization. NACSA does not have any government-approved, professional standards of operations; nor state licensing or certification; and it is not subject to any government agency, review board or code of ethics to govern its acts. Finally, the lawsuit states that Huffman and TDOE enacted a regulation which granted Barbic and TASD carte blanche to deny due process to applicants who are denied charter operator’s authorizations as there is absolutely no redress, grievance or appeal process to review any of the defendants’ actions.

For more information, contact the plaintiffs at: ru4justice@facebook.com or 901.300.0162.

This lawsuit is brought by two individuals claiming $10 million in damages because they were denied charter operator authorization by the ASD. $10 million dollars!!!  Those damages are a clear-cut case for how profitable a charter operator authorization can be.

Interesting how a potential charter school is suing some big guns in TN over unfair business practices, isn't it?

We've heard for years how there is a severe case of the good ol' boys club, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine," nepotism within the TN DOE between other self-serving high-dollar organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and SCORE.  

It is hard to ignore the evidence of that nepotism when you read how:
  • TN pays more than any other state for Teach for America temporary teachers through a $6+million NO-BID contract signed by Kevin Huffman, who formerly had a cushy job at Teach For America.  
  • Our public schools are strangled, teachers and administrators are cut, and then the students, buildings, and tax dollars are handed over on silver platters along with generous grant dollars and tax incentives to their buddies' charter chains (like YES Prep, where ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic has very close ties and has richly profited from).
  • The ASD schools have worse results than the public schools they killed ever did, but the ASD schools aren't feeling the wrath of the TNDOE's micromanaging and bullying like the public schools.
  • Charter schools are making some people very, very rich
  • Charter schools get preferential treatment within districts and the state:
    • charters are exempt and/or given waivers from TCAP score accountability (especially if they are friends and/or donors to politicians)
    • charters are exempt from giving the expensive and time-consuming benchmark RTI2 assessment tests that public schools are now being forced to do by the TNDOE.

When we allow corporate greed to infect public education, it is to be expected that profiteers will attack each other over business practices. We hope that this lawsuit will shine a light on these shady practices.

Perhaps this isn't "dog eat dog" but more like a pack of dogs attacking public schools.  If the plaintiffs win, where will that $10 million come from?  Public school funding???
Winners = lawyers + charter operators
Losers = students

Interesting legal tidbit:  This suit has been filed in Shelby County in the 30th Judicial District Chancery Court. Jim Kyle, former TN Senator, is a new chancellor in that court.  A new chancellor will be appointed to fill in for Kenny Armstrong, so there is quite a bit of turnover in that court right now. 

No comments:

Post a Comment