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How the Top-Down Imposition of Unproven Charter Schools Is Roiling Parents and Communities

January 18, 2015 in Blogs

By Jeff Bryant, Salon

A fight over education in Nashville might come your way next: It's a proxy for dangerous right-wing education ideas.

“We know we need to do something about students who are not achieving in our schools.”

That anxious appeal – along with its many variations – has become the refrain now firmly embedded in speeches and opinion columns about American public education.

Yes! Do something. About those kids.

Only this time, the anxious appeal is coming from Jai Sanders, an African-American parent in Nashville, Tennessee, who has a stake in the matter: The something about to be done is aimed squarely at him and his children.

Sanders, pausing briefly before assembling a bagel with lox and cream cheese, explains, “But what we’re currently doing is throwing solutions at the wall to see what sticks, without any research or any consultation with the people who are affected the most.”

His tone of voice doesn’t carry a trace of the anger or resentment that could be inferred from what he just said. Actually, Sanders exudes affability. With a green ball cap tipped slightly back from his cherubic face, he gestures broadly and smiles incessantly. His impossibly well-behaved 3-year-old daughter seated beside him only occasionally diverts him as she carefully navigates her bagel.

They live with mom and the rest of the family in the same house where Jai grew up – the third generation of Sanders to live in their home in East Nashville.

Sanders, who attended both public and private schools while growing up in East Nashville, has chosen, along with his wife, to send their children to their neighborhood public school, Inglewood Elementary. Inglewood was “the default for us,” he says.

An older daughter who attends the school has been identified gifted and talented which has enabled her to be included in a program where she is provided with an Individual Education Plan so she receives specific attention to her abilities.

Yet now Sanders finds himself and his family swept into a raging Music City controversy. Conversations about public education – where you send your kid to school, where other parents send their kids, and who gets to decide – have exploded into …read more


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