Tennessee School District Takeover Debated

Published November 30, 2014

Teachers in Shelby County, Tennessee are rallying against the proposed expansion of the Achievement School District, a state-run entity that moves the state’s lowest-performing districts into its jurisdiction. The Shelby County Teachers Coalition staunchly opposes the ASD moving in, claiming it takes local control from the district and steals public funds, even though the ASD is itself a public entity.

The Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli says the coalition is self-serving.

“This is simply an example of adults trying to protect their own narrow interests at the expense of disadvantaged children,” Petrilli said. “The goal of the Achievement School District is to clear the bureaucratic and political barriers to making things work for kids. Done right, it’s going to empower local educators to do their work effectively, and will empower parents to have good choices for their children. That’s the kind of local control we should celebrate.”

Lindsey Boyd of the Beacon Center of Tennessee expressed concern over the district’s performance. Boyd says the ASD takeover would not change enough about the current system.

“Clearly, when a government school in Memphis watches over half their students drop out before reaching graduation or less than 6 percent perform at the required math standards, something needs to change,” said Boyd.

“Beacon has been very supportive of charter schools as a part of the larger menu of school choice options, but we also believe that enduring and positive change will only come when families are no longer trapped in one-size-fits-all education models,” Boyd added. “Until we allow parents the right to leave a school that’s failing their child and seek other options, whether that be homeschooling, public, private, charter, or virtual, we will continue to fall short of providing the opportunities Tennessee children deserve.”

Chris Neal ([email protected]) writes from New York, New York.