by David Safier
The strongly conservative Tennessee legislature wanted a charter school in Nashville run by Great Hearts, a conservative-led charter school chain in Phoenix. The Nashville school board said no. Until recently, Tennessee charter schools could only be for low income students, and the proposed Great Hearts charter would be set up in a ritzy area of town and function as a government subsidized private school for rich kids.
So the state is withholding $3.4 million from the district.
The roughly $3.4 million in non-classroom administrative funds that state officials plan to withhold is part of a pool that includes student transportation, utilities and maintenance for 5,000 classrooms and more than 80,000 students, according to the statement.
At this point, the Nashville School Board is standing its ground, and Great Hearts has withdrawn its application.
As I posted yesterday, Great Hearts schools in Phoenix have a number of fees parents have to pay, and the schools strongly recommend parents contribute at least $1,200-$1,500 per year per child. I mentioned their Scottsdale and Mesa schools which have almost about 90% White and Asian students. I didn't mention Teleos Prep in central Phoenix, which is 69% Black, 16% Hispanic and 12% White -- 64% are on reduced lunch. Interestingly, the curriculum that seems to work so well in the high rent districts isn't doing so well with a lower income student body. Scores on achievement tests are low.
Great Hearts believes in separate-but-unequal schools. When people in Nashville told Great Hearts board President Jay Heiler they wanted a diverse, heterogeneous student body, Heiler replied,
"We have schools that land all over the map [in Phoenix]," Heiler says. "Some would be serving very middle-class folks by and large, we have one inner-city school that serves ethnic minority kids, and we have another one that would open that would be similar to that. In Tennessee it seems like there was more of a focus of bringing diversity into each school, whereas here we try to serve a diversity of communities." [boldface added for emphasis]
Get that? A school for a rich, white community, a school for a poor, minority community, but not a school that would attract students from both communities.
The leadership of Great Hearts Academies reads like a Who's Who of Phoenix conservative politics. Here's a brief resume of board president Jay Heiler:
As editor of the Arizona State University student paper in the early 1980s, Heiler, now a veteran GOP political operative, penned op-ed pieces weighing in on topics such as homosexuality and immigration. In recent years, he supported Arizona's controversial SB 1070, on grounds, he says, that it would aid the fight against Mexican drug cartels.