To date, charter schools (schools publicly funded but run by a private entity) have been licensed by Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to offer options to struggling student populations. Earlier this year, family income restrictions on charter schools were removed by a new TN law. Great Hearts Academies (GHA), among others, has applied for a Charter and plans to locate a school in affluent West Nashville. We believe that GHA will easily exceed their test score targets by drawing from the high-scoring private and public school student populations in West Nashville.
GHA relies on community/parent fundraising to implement their enhanced staffing. We are concerned, in principle, that public funds will be added to private funds and will create an economically exclusive enclave for a few lottery-selected students. Many Nashville public school students are economically challenged, with 70% receiving free and reduced lunch. With a diverse student population, GHA schools could offer a dynamic window into new school management practices that could serve all of MNPS. Such potentially revolutionary insights will be lost to taxpayers if the school serves primarily affluent students.
The GHA application touts diversity in their Arizona schools, but makes no reference to any plan to achieve racial and economic diversity in Nashville. Once the GHA application has been accepted, MNPS and the wider community will be powerless to increase diversity at GHA schools.
We, the undersigned residents of Davidson County request that GHA be required to submit an addendum to its charter application, setting forth what its targets are for diversity (at least 40% free and reduced lunch) and what specific steps GHA will take (in marketing, in transportation offerings, in reserving a number of seats for economically disadvantaged students, etc.) to ensure those targets are reached. GHA must further outline how it will report those numbers to MNPS and be accountable for them. GHA's vague written and verbal assurances that it seeks to educate a diverse group of students are inadequate.
Unless a cogent plan for diversity is submitted by GHA, the undersigned ask that the GHA Charter Application, as well as any other Charter applications submitted by others under the new TN law, be denied by the Metro Nashville Public Schools Board of Education.
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