Image Credit: capitol.tn.gov
The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Democrat Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis-District 98) introduced his bill in the House Education Administration Committee on Wednesday sounding like a conservative when he likened a hypothetical bad business investment to funding for a state run school district.
House Bill 0692 (HB0692) would restructure the Achievement School District which takes control of failing schools within the state and instead create the Tennessee Education Achievement Portal, a resource for Tennessee’s public and charter schools alike.
Parkinson gave an analogy of a businessman investing his children’s savings into a bad business deal for thirteen years straight with no return on investment.
“How many of us here on this committee would keep investing our children’s savings into a business for several years with no return on the investment?” asked Parkinson. “We the state are that individual. However, we haven’t lost a 100 thousand dollars in a fictitious story in a year, we’ve lost an investment of over one billion hard earned tax dollars on a failed business venture called the Achievement School District.”
The Achievement School District (ASD) was created in 2010. The original goal was to take schools in the bottom 5% to the top 25% in five years.
“Not one school went to the top 25%, nor did any school in the ASD crack the bottom 25%,” said Parkinson.
The bill’s intent, said Parkinson is to “rebrand and restructure the ASD” in part by reducing the size of government.
“The state is funding two state run school districts,” said Parkinson. “The state authorizer, or charter commission and the ASD.”
Calling it “a waste of tax dollars” and a duplication of services, Parkinson calls for creating one portal that will be named the Tennessee Education Achievement Portal, “the centerpiece for all things education” and “support for all schools across Tennessee.”
This “education hub” would provide each LEA with access to educational support, become a grant portal, provide professional development resources for educators and leadership, provide literacy skills instruction, help LEAs mitigate learning loss, as well as remediation and student acceleration programs, and more.
“We are rebranding, restructuring, and repurposing the ASD’s mission and duties,” Parkinson said. “No charter management contracts will be cut short. No charter schools will be harmed in this process. No existing charter schools in the ASD will be harmed, as by law they have the choice of going into the LEA or the charter commission upon exiting the ASD. Most of the interventions available to the Commissioner of Education will continue to be available with the exception of school takeover for our lowest performing schools.”
Dr. Eve Carney, Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, spoke against the bill stating that the department was extremely concerned that the bill “would take a first step towards undoing an important choice and accountability option for the lowest performing schools in the state.”
Schools enter the ASD when they have underperformed or have performed in the bottom 5% of schools in the entire state for a minimum of six years.
Carney called the ASD “a statewide lever” without which thousands of Tennesseans will graduate without receiving “a quality education.”
“We have seen some successes and learned some hard lessons,” she said.
After a restructure in 2019, which involved going to a full charter model, Carney reported that twelve schools had improved and risen above the 5th percentile, and six had earned priority exit status.
Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka-District 64) asked his fellow committee members if going from 4% to 10% literacy is “the success we want to be known for in Tennessee.”
“We have got to get these kids educated,” Cepicky said. “We are looking at abject failure.”
In a roll call vote requested by the sponsor, Republicans Baum, Butler, Cepicky, Fritts, Haston, Ragan, Slater, Stevens and Warner voted yes along with Democrats Jones, Love, McKenzie, and Parkinson.
Republicans Gillespie, Hurt, and White voted no.
Republicans present but not voting were Lafferty and Richey.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at email@example.com.