NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — "Unacceptable" is what parents call the decision from Metro Nashville Public Schools to eliminate charter schools from its sports league.
MNPS notified charters of this decision back in April, effectively forcing charters to form their own league.
It's a decision that has a lot of parents upset and asking why.
Sonya Thomas is a charter school parent and the executive director of Nashville Propel — a parent-led advocacy group for Metro parents.
Thomas, like many other parents, cannot believe MNPS is removing public charter schools in Nashville from its middle school sports league.
"They are your students, and you have a duty and a responsibility and a moral responsibility to work with the charter leaders — not send out a letter for them to do it on their own."
Sean Braisted, MNPS spokesperson, told NewsChannel 5 charter middle school sports are not going to be eliminated next year. They will continue to practice and play as normal, albeit with specific charter schedules and competitions.
State law mandates that charter schools receive an equal per pupil portion of state and local funding to serve the needs of their students, with an anticipated $234 million going to Davidson County charter schools in the upcoming budget year. Charter schools have autonomy to develop and manage their academic and extracurricular programming. This would include the sports offerings for their students. Given the current and anticipated future growth in charter seats, we believe they have the capacity to use their resources to develop a parallel middle school sports program allowing our district to focus on further developing and improving the programs we offer to MNPS students.
So, to be clear, we fully expect that charter schools in Davidson County will continue to offer the same sports programming they do currently, the only impact is that they will now have the opportunity to work together to form their own league which involves scheduling games and competitions. We have provided that information to the schools and held information meetings to answer questions on how to do just that.
The district notified the charters of this decision on April 29, telling them they will now need to form their own sports league.
"Dr. Battle did not go to the Board asking them to do this. There was no rule or policy in place requiring MNPS to facilitate scheduling and leagues for charter schools, and this did not require any Board action," Braisted said in an email.
He also said competitiveness was not an issue or part of the discussion.
The Tennessee Charter School Center said Metro charter schools asked for an extension, saying they needed more time to prepare, but were told no. They say the district has refused to give them a reason for this sudden change.
The Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC) strongly objects to the recently proposed rule from MNPS that would suddenly bar the district’s public charter school sports teams, which have been competing collegially in MNPS leagues for years, from participating in district play.
When Nashville public charter school educators asked for an extension to allow more time to prepare, they were told no. When the public charter school leaders asked for a reason for the new rule, they were given none. When they sought an official appeals process on this decision, they were offered none. Equitable access to the playing field, and the futures of student athletes, have been disregarded.
There is no logical basis for this decision. To single out one group of public school students and give their schools less than two months to act on an unexpected directive feels like a punishment for those student athletes, coaches and teams who chose an educational environment that best fit their needs. While adults can disagree about school governance models, children should not bear the brunt of those disagreements in the classroom or on the playing field.
At TCSC, our work is focused on ensuring that all families in Tennessee have access to high quality public school options and that every student can thrive in the environment that best suits their needs. More than 13,000 students in Nashville, the majority of whom are students of color, have found that through Nashville’s public charter schools, free and open to all, and part of the Metro Nashville Public School district.
It is deeply disappointing to see petty politics once again hindering families from simply seeking a great learning environment for their children. The TCSC team is working with public charter school leaders and families to navigate this sudden and frustrating decision by MNPS. We join with Nashville’s educators, students, coaches, and parents in calling on MNPS to immediately reverse this unfair policy - and just let the kids play.
Metro schools told NewsChannel 5 they think Nashville now has enough charters for them to have their own league. They say this change will free up the district to focus more on students in traditional public schools.
"The fact that a parent has to choose between what is best for their child academically and sports — unacceptable," said Thomas.
The district says it expects charters will be able to work together to create a practice and game schedule before students return in the fall.