Tamara Shepherd's picture


Of course Emerald Charter School is a done deal, no matter the BOE's vote.

Our new state-level charter school authorizer will approve it, period.

If this school presumes to serve only 120 children--and also to run more hours per day and more days per year--it will receive virtually no funding from the state.

Per the state's BEP Blue Book, the state will fund for a school so small just a part-time principal (at a rate lower than KCS pays that position), a part-time secretary (ditto), a part-time librarian, and no art or music or phys-ed instructor. Or guidance counselor.

The costs/remaining costs for these positions will be borne by local government, whether or not local government likes the idea of operating slews of schools so small and costly.

I'd say look for your suburban elementary schools to grow from 1000 students to 2000 soon enough.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


And same goes for the Dream Academy charter school app expected tomorrow, too, presumably.

Average Guy's picture

"Emerald" and "Dream"

Can't decide if we're trying to educate kids, provide a casino status or if Mattel is launching school for Barbie.

Sandra Clark's picture

Dream Academy?

Is that the proposal for Vine Middle that keeps coming up?

Bbeanster's picture

tamara's right. I understated

tamara's right. I understated the state's position on charter schools. They're on like Donkey Kong now, under state law.
It's Katie bar the door!

redmondkr's picture

Thar's gold in them thar

Thar's gold in them thar hills and our corporate controlled legislators are going to see that it gets mined.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Bill to allow for-profit charter management organizations

HB 1693 / SB 1684:

House: Placed on House Education Committee calendar for tomorrow, 4/1/14.

Senate: Recommended for passage 3/12/14 and referred to Senate Calendar Committee.

Min's picture

Tomorrow is another Civication day...

TEA's initiative to have teachers take the Tuesday of their spring breaks and travel to Nashville to lobby their legislators. Hopefully, the House Education Committee will be packed out with teachers tomorrow.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I have a sinking feeling about which group will prove to be the April Fools...

Who me's picture

On the board

Does everybody know BOE member Doug Harris is on the Emerald Board? Conflict of interest?

cwg's picture

Yes, every one know it. And

Yes, every one know it. And I've reported it too. Harris says he's waiting for KCS administration legal to weigh in as to whether his vote is a conflict since he's not on the board of the school itself. He seems pretty amenable to sitting out the vote, but only if he's told to.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


The bigger issue is that Dee Haslam funded the study that led to EYF's conclusion that they should open a charter school.

Not that I saw anything in that study that really should have led them to conclude that...

jcgrim's picture

Conflict of interest? What's that?

Get ready for that sucking sound of Knox Co. school money to disappear into private investment black holes. Keep an eye on what the charter schools tell their investors but not the rest of us.
Don't forget charter investors depend on the missionary zeal and cheap churn of Teach for America temps.
One keen charter observer noted:

The front door clear advantage awarded to charter schools by the Deformists in charge is city wide admissions. [The ejector seat advantage allows them to “counsel” ahem force out low performers.] Charter schools can selectively admit from a disadvantaged demographic - not freely admit and act as a dictionary-definition neighborhood school. They aren’t like a magnet school quite yet. I like the term “privilege school” like “your attendance here isn’t a right it is a privilege.”

jcgrim's picture

Emerald will be the best charter plutocrats can buy

Average Guy's picture

Excellent Graphic!

It would make a great handout for those campaigning.

jcgrim's picture

Emerald is the beginning of the end of public schools in Knox CO

When the charter cheerleaders proclaim their divine mission to open Emerald is to save poor, black children, DON'T BELIEVE THEM.


A Master Plan to eliminate urban public school districts was clearly outlined by the Fordham Institute's Andy Smarick in "Wave of the Future" (Winter 2008):

First, commit to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to a secondary provider. The target should be 75 percent.

Second, choose the target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable growth (fair funding, nondistrict authorizers, and no legislated caps), and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and unorganized opposition). [Smarick's suggests the "potentially fertile districts" of Albany, Buffalo, Denver, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.]

Third, secure proven operators to open new schools. To the greatest extent possible, growth should be driven by replicating successful local charters and recruiting high-performing operators from other areas.

Fourth, engage key allies like Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools, and national and local foundation to ensure the effort has the human and financial capital needed.

Last, commit to rigorously assessing charter performance in each community and working with authorizers to close the charters that fail to significantly improve student achievement.

Smarick's article contains a chart listing the strongest providers at that time (Figure 2: "Replicating Charter Success"). Just two years later, we now know that his #2 and #4 ranked charter managers, White Hat Management and Imagine Schools, Inc., have been embroiled in lawsuits and scandal. The #1 ranked EMO (Edison Schools) ended up failing. It folded and re-emerged with a new name and plan (EdisonLearning). So much for a fine and upstanding history of charter school "success."

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Update: Bill to allow for-profit charter mgmt organizations

I said above, on March 31:

HB 1693 / SB 1684:

House: Placed on House Education Committee calendar for tomorrow, 4/1/14.

Senate: Recommended for passage 3/12/14 and referred to Senate Calendar Committee.


Effective yesterday, April 1, this bill has been recommended for passage by both chambers. Surprise, surprise!

JimCrawford1's picture

Doug Harris the swing vote?

I saw this on Brain Hornback's site, interesting perspective:

sneaky politicians

cwg's picture

As I reported

months ago, Harris says he will not vote on the charter if KCS determines there is a conflict.


KCS said they'd wait for the full application to determine if there is one. Since the application was submitted Tuesday, presumably a decision will be coming sometime before the board starts discussing it.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

For-profit charter mgmt bill FAILED!

HB 1693 / SB 1684 to allow for-profit charter management organizations has FAILED this morning in the House Calendar and Rules Committee!


Bbeanster's picture

HB 1693 Just watched the

HB 1693

Just watched the video.
Harwell killed this b/c she said it'll hurt non-profit charters.

It has no application to Emerald

Average Guy's picture

Word games

Non-profit: We collect parent’s money and education taxes and only pay ourselves, our chosen outside “consultants”, our chosen textbooks and our chosen software suppliers.

For profit: We collect parent’s money and education taxes and dole the money like the aforementioned anyway. (Which assumes “ourselves” includes investment firms, but as proven, they just need an amendable super)

There is no charity being played in the current game of education.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


It has no application to Emerald now.

It may have application to Emerald if/when their app is approved and if/when they conclude down the road that they really don't care to operate a school--especially one as onerous to operate as the one they intend to open would be.

Mike Cohen's picture


Not that anyone asked, but I am conflicted on both charter schools and vouchers. I can see a lot of wisdom in views from both sidees.

But putting aside whether you want charter schools and just looking at the national reality of them existing in most places on some level, isn't Emerald Youth the kind ofo people we would want running one? In my experience Steve Diggs and his organization are committed to helping kids and run good programs. I suspect his charter school would be the same.

Everybody keeps talking the politics of EYF's board, but a lot of that high-powered well-connected people are there becaue he has built that support by doing good work for a lot of years.

Anyone heard differently?

Average Guy's picture

Time to pick

I too liked some of the promise of vouchers and charters when the movement started.

Over time I got a look at the reformers and what these movements will mean to public school systems.

So, I’m picking the current (or old?) construct. I hope positive reforms can happen in the current construct, but I want them done with public dollars, public input and an eye toward the masses - not a select few.

It is time to pick. And I’m not parsing it down to this one or that one. It’s public education as we’ve known it or something else. Even if your convinced you love one small part of the something else, know that you’re not advocating that one thing, you’re advocating it all.

Mike Cohen's picture


I get that, AG. But I can't get there myself. I hate, hate, hate the idea of starting to erode the public education system that is one of the best things we have in America. But I also think if some kids can get a chance that makes a real difference for their entire life....well, that's a good thing.

So I can't pick.

But my point was, picking aside, doesn't Emerald Youth seem like the exact kind of people you would want running a charter school?

Average Guy's picture

They seem like the kind of

They seem like the kind of people I’d like to start a 4 year experiment with.., in the current system. Not unlike the L&N Stem. Even better, what if it worked? We could take their success to all the other schools!

Nobody is for hurdles preventing kids from bettering themselves.

But I’ll be damned if I’m going to vote to trade a need for the masses for the promise of a few.

Is it money? Is it parental involvement? Is it more community involvement? Is it more money? Is it year round calendars? Is it better books? Is it more iPads? Is it that the hand selected Chinese test masters are “kicking our butts” or is it having a principal that gives hugs?

What exactly have any of the reformers proposed that can’t be done in the current construct? That said, I do believe there are earnest educators seeking earnest reform and that they feel bound by public bureaucracies. And I equally believe they will be eaten alive by private sector vultures in short order. And so will trillions of public dollars.

Bbeanster's picture

Politically active friends in

Politically active friends in the First District tell me that the biggest education-related problem is a shortage of parents who have the means, motivation and mindset to get involved in their children's schools. My fear is that Emerald Academy would siphon off the activist parents, leaving the existing public schools with even less help than they have now.

Somebody's picture

Well, that's the whole

Well, that's the whole problem with charters and vouchers. They create winners and losers. This is great for the winners, but not so much for the losers, who end up with no chance, no how, for nothing. Improving schools in economically disadvantaged areas should involve all of the students, not just those who can escape.

That said, to my understanding, Emerald Youth Foundation is a good organization and a real asset to the community. Once again in the rush to characterize "us" and "them" in the education debate, anyone who might have a whiff of themness on their collar gets characterized as the enemy and therefore evil. That's not how we're going to get through this current debate with a better result for the kids after it's said and done.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Improving schools in economically disadvantaged areas should involve all of the students, not just those who can escape.

The root problem here is that we have whole "areas" that are "economically disadvantaged."

Shouldn't we question that such concentrations of poverty exist in the first place?

Shouldn't our reform efforts be focused on abolishing them in these "areas," so that we concurrently abolish them in the schools serving those "areas?"

Meanwhile, all I see from this brand of reformers is their efforts to circumvent the problems, namely skyrocketing poverty and segregated housing.

They argue against creating affordable healthcare, against raising the minimum wage, against reducing regressive taxes, and so forth.

And they especially argue against establishing inclusionary housing.

It doesn't look to me like they have any interest at all is doing away with those "economically disadvantaged areas."

Mike Cohen's picture


There's nothing in Emerald's history to suggest that kind of behavior.

They generally only serve children from poverty.

Steve Diggs, who has built the organization, lives right there in the area he serves.

I get the suspicion over motives for cash and all that in many cases, I am just saying that Diggs and his folks have been walking the walk for a lot of years.

Tamara...as a school board member what would be your plan to do away with "economically disadvantaged areas"?

peixao's picture

Beg pardon?

There's plenty in the history of Emerald's board to suggest exactly that sort of behavior.

Mike, despite Emerald's claims that the teacher is the single most important factor in a child's academic success, the research overwhelmingly concludes that childhood poverty is in fact the most important factor.

Quit being willfully obtuse and asking stupid questions like how a board member would solve childhood poverty. There's a place somewhere between that and denying it affects academic success.

Mike Cohen's picture

What, exactly, is the

What, exactly, is the behavior of Emerald that makes you say that, because my knowledge of them is the exact opposite. Steve Diggs and his organization have done a lot of good for a lot of years.

I asked the question of Tamara because she suggested none of these people want to address it. OK, how does she think it should be addressed.

I agree that financially diverse housing is a great goal, by the way. When I was on the KCDC Board we did the Mechanicsville Hope VI project that saw some homes subsidized and some sold at market rate.

peixao's picture

Emerald Foundation Board of Trustees

They may have redesigned the webpage, but if you scroll down to the Board of Trustees, you can see two Haslams, a special advisor to the governor, Sam Anderson, a school board member, and a "special advisor for HR to the state of TN." So at least half of their Board is in Haslam's pocket already, and he supports exactly the sort of backward education reform focusing efforts on teacher quality rather than childhood poverty.

Somebody's picture

Of course poverty itself is a

Of course poverty itself is a primary root problem. Improving the local economic situation and decreasing poverty would do a great deal to improve education for the affected children.

I think it's a cop out, however, to point at poverty and suggest that has to be fixed first. This is an organic thing, and each thing is tied to the other. Poverty makes educating children much more difficult, but it's also true that children who are poorly educated grow up and produce children who live in poverty.

It's all too tempting for some in the education debate to suggest that the problem here is just poverty, and that there's nothing at all in our public education system that needs reform. This does not comport with reality. Poverty exists, right now, and our public education system is not up to the task of dealing with it.

For poor kids in school right now, it's too late to 'fix poverty' so that they can better concentrate on school. Absolutely, we should do more to 'fix poverty,' but in the meantime, we have to work harder to help poor kids get a decent education, in spite of the gale-force headwinds created by poverty.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


1) Since the documented effect of charter schools (and voucher programs, too) is to pull the "less poor" of the poor out of our traditional public schools and leave the "more poor" of the poor behind there, how does this approach help the "more poor" of the poor?

2) Since the documented effect of charter schools to raise student achievement is spotty at best, how do charter schools help even these "less poor" of the poor that they skim?

It's not like charter schools lack a track record at this point, Somebody.

And even if they did lack a track record, that still wouldn't pass muster as a reason to experiment with charters ahead of working to address what we know to be root problems in so-called "failing schools."

I'll stick with my analogy that this brand of reform seeks to stand Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs on its head.

We don't achieve "self-actualization" before we satisfy much more basic needs like safety and shelter and food.

Somebody's picture

Please review the sentences I

Please review the sentences I wrote that appeared immediately prior to the sentence of mine that you originally selected to call out. Never mind; I'll do it for you.

Well, that's the whole problem with charters and vouchers. They create winners and losers. This is great for the winners, but not so much for the losers, who end up with no chance, no how, for nothing.

I am not advocating charter schools. As you can see, I already see the inherent problems with them.

Charter schools and vouchers are not the silver bullet for the problem, but neither is "fixing poverty." Charter schools and voucher programs, however, are one response to the problem. What I am trying to get across is the fact that shooting at proposals for charter schools and vouchers, while claiming that the real problem is poverty, not education, does no one any good. You still end up with kids in poor neighborhoods not getting a good education at schools staffed by frustrated teachers who lack the resources to accomplish what they wish they could accomplish.

If you don't like charter schools, offer solutions that begin with the acknowledgement that, whether we like it or not, we have kids who must receive a decent education despite the poverty around them.

It's not a zero-sum game, and it's not a one-way hierarchy. You cannot sustain safety, shelter and food without education. All these things have to happen at once, or not at all.

Stick's picture

Charter schools and voucher

Charter schools and voucher programs, however, are one response to the problem.

An inherently problematic one that: a) based on the charter sector's own stated criteria doesn't work and b) creates a whole host of new problems such as increased stratification and falling achievement. (Take a look at Chile and Sweden or, hell, Chicago)

If you don't like charter schools, offer solutions that begin with the acknowledgement that, whether we like it or not, we have kids who must receive a decent education despite the poverty around them.

That's just it... We know what to do: small class sizes (especially in the early years), provide nutritious meals and health care, provide students with real books from which to choose based on their interests, construct language rich environments, etc. We have a century of educational research that gives us a pretty good idea of where to go. It will not solve all of the many issues related to poverty, but it's a place to start. The problem is that we don't want to pay for it.

reform4's picture


That's just it... We know what to do: .....the problem is that we don't want to pay for it.

Bingo. But when it's a contractual requirement with a private firm... well, contracts are holy, and watch the taxes go up then.

Min's picture

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

The problem is that the most research supported solutions cost money, and neither the people nor their politicians are willing to foot the bill for educating poor children, who, along with their parents, have been demonized for being poor.

It's a hateful, cynical way to run a society.

cwg's picture

Still dissecting the application

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Before I click on this link, let me be sure to thank your for the last one, Cari.

You giggled, I groaned...but I much appreciated your excerpt/commentary.

cwg's picture

I'm trying to keep the snark

I'm trying to keep the snark mostly down on this one, because I don't want the details to get lost, but that segment was too hilarious not to share with everyone.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I might also have asked what you think it is about our traditional public schools that precludes poor students' getting a "decent" education?

Are you suggesting that they are "poorly educated" due to something about the schools they presently attend?

Are you suggesting, for example, that their teachers are "ineffective?"

Tamara Shepherd's picture


You cannot sustain safety, shelter and food without education.

You cannot obtain an education without safety, shelter and food.

Sometime soon, we'll have to get together for coffee and I'll flesh out that thought more fully, but I do have examples galore.

Until then.

Mike Cohen's picture

Emerald Board

I served on a few boards and am on three now: Boy Scouts, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee and the Knoxville Opera.

In my experience, Board members are there because they like the organization. You kind of commit to write donate, too.

If you look at the connections of Board members and think there is some profit motive....well, I've never seen it on any board on which I have served.

peixao's picture

And if you're on the Emerald

And if you're on the Emerald Foundation board of trustees and see an opportunity to advance your own political agenda, that's just icing, right?

JimCrawford1's picture

PR Stunt

That statement was nice. Completely untrue, but nice. Everyone is driven by motives, your facilitate their motives by making them sound good or try to.

Mike Cohen's picture


Actually, no. I have never been at a Board meeting of any organization where I thought someone was advancing a political agenda.

People are there because they believe in the organization and what it does.

If they are supporting the Emerald Charter School I suspect it is because they believe Steve Diggs and his crew can help serve kids another way.

I honestly think you are seeing evil where little to none exists.

It's a volunteer board. You give your time and money because you support the cause.

Fred McCall's picture

Sometimes people you disagree

Sometimes people you disagree with actually have motives that are no less pure than yours. It makes talking about things like an adult difficult when people can't recognize that.

Stick's picture

Being an adult

It is impossible to see into another's heart, and it's not very productive to try. All we have to work with is this: the policies being pursued and what the best evidence available tells us about these policies.

peixao's picture

Well then, the confluence of

Well then, the confluence of Haslam's educational reform agenda and a board loaded with cronies and allies must just be a happy accident. That charter schools further his agenda of union-busting (teacher unions and VW) while not actually improving the state of education (see the research) is also unworthy of consideration.

TNchickadee's picture

The Road to Hell

As they say, they road to hell is paved with good intentions. I hope I am not wrong in thinking that the Emerald Youth foundation and its local board members have the best of intentions. The philosophy of starting a charter school is a noble one. If anyone can find a new way to reach kids, more power to them. However, unless you have lived under a rock the past 4-5 years, you know test scores have become the only way to evaluate a school's, teacher's, or sadly, a student's worth. when the test score pressure ramps up, I hope Emerald will not fall into the same trap as other charters...dismissing students who can't perform up to the standards or result to cheating.....something I am sure they don't envision right now.

Mike Cohen's picture


I agree completely.

Given what I know about Diggs and his folks, I can't imagine that they would. I'd guess those are the kids he wants the most because he can help the most.

reform4's picture



Why, perish the thought. The man with access to the tests (and the scoring process)- appointed and good friends with the Governor, who has close relatives on the board of the school, and everyone with a stake in showing the school outperforms (or at least equals) the public schools?

How on earth could they possibly cheat?

reform4's picture



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