School Board’s Great Hearts Decision Vexes Mayor, State

“An unfortunate step backwards” – that’s what Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is calling Tuesday night’s move by the Metro school board. The state has threatened legal action over the board’s refusal to approve an Arizona-based charter-school operator that wants to expand into Metro.

Despite a state order to approve Great Hearts Academies, Metro’s board voted 7-to-2 to defer the matter. Ross Booher, a lawyer with Great Hearts, says he hadn’t expected to watch board members intentionally break state law, even as their legal counsel advised them not to.

“To see her repeatedly urge on camera her client to obey the law, and then to see the board, or at least seven members of the board, to violate state law… both of those things were surprising.”

Meanwhile a Metro Schools official is arguing the state order depended on conditions that have not been met. Among them, she says Great Hearts had to resolve concerns over its plan for student diversity and transportation, but hasn’t done so to the board’s satisfaction.

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has warned Metro Schools could now face repercussions. In separate written statements Huffman doesn’t give specifics, while Mayor Dean says it would be “regrettable” if the board’s move jeopardizes state education funds.

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