Monday, September 19, 2005

Academic Protectionism

The local Nashville homeschooling community is quite concerned about a recent letter received from Bill Troup of the Parks and Recreation Department here. Apparently, he's denied a local homeschooling group permission to continue using their local community center.

This group reports that for the last four years they've gotten together at the Bellevue Community Center and taught their children there once a week for two hours. "The parents pooled their talents and swapped teaching subjects like electricity, soil science, botany, etc to the group." That cooperative effort means the program is free of charge to participating families. Additionally, they report that the group gets along will with the staff at the Bellevue Community Center are are not being 'kicked out because we left giant messes or were rude".

It seems Mr. Troup is concerned that about the conflict between homeschooling and public schooling. Specifically he wrote on August 26, 2005:

"To insure that we are not in conflict with our mission, and with the mission of the Metro Public Schools, we cannot provide meeting space on a permanent or extended basis for academic instruction by private schools, charter schools or home school groups."
This is old-fashioned protectionism of the public education system. Homeschoolers can use their city's services IF they'll participate in classes and programs created by the Parks & Recreation Department after the department is satisfied that there is a 'demonstrated demand and available facilities'. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. Can there be any better demonstration of demand than this group's four year history? These parents are being penalized for meeting their own needs with available resources. Their sin is providing 'academic instruction' to their own children on property that is partly owned by them as citizens.

One parent commented: "They'd let our kids color flowers, but cutting up flowers, drawing the parts and then labeling them can't be accommodated. Figure that out!"

Is it the job of every Metro agency to protect every other Metro agency? It is the job of Metro to ensure that our public schools aren’t subject to any sort of competition? Is this going to extend to the libraries where homeschoolers regularly and heavily utilize those facilities instead of the public school? Will it then continue on to say the parks themselves where lots of homeschoolers meet on a regular basis, the Parthenon, on to the State Museum? This could get ridiculous if not nipped in the bud.

I understand that Metro cannot guarantee that their facilities will always be available however; if these facilities are open and available to the public it shouldn’t matter if it’s the local senior citizens group or a bunch of moms and their children. I understand that Metro isn’t in the business of providing space for money making entities, however, most of these homeschool groups don’t make money, they usually barely cover expenses. What about all those day-cares that bring van loads of children to library story hours? We’ve got Pre-K programs being funded by the state now. Are those children going to be denied access also as their day-care is in competition with the public system?

If educating children is the most important thing a community can do why are we penalizing these parents who are actually saving taxpayers money by taking on the job themselves? If their children were enrolled in public school they'd be costing the city a lot more than the relatively few dollars it takes to use facilities that are already open, consuming utilities and has a paid staff member present. These parent/taxpayers are contributing financially to the public education system for which they get very little in return. They most certainly don’t get any services from the public school system. Community resources like the parks and libraries are fundamental for them and they’ll be lots of objections to being shut out of these.

Full Text of the Metro Parks letter:
August 26, 2005
Dear Home-School Parent,

Thank you for your interest in utilizing our community center to
enhance your child's home school experience. We are pleased to work
with you and your children within the context of the Parks and
Recreation department's mission.

Currently, we are offering a free program of activities that
includes organized athletics, open recreation and visual arts
classes specifically for the home-schooling community. These
activities are open to all residents, and program offerings can be
expanded based on demonstrated demand and available facilities. We
also have several community centers throughout the city that are
very interested in developing new programs and activities
specifically for home-school children and families.

We are, however, limited in the scope of the services that we can
provide. To insure that we are not in conflict with our mission, and
with the mission of the Metro Public Schools, we cannot provide
meeting space on a permanent or extended basis for academic
instruction by private schools, charter schools or home school

Again, use of our facilities for recreation, and participation in
any of our programs and activities by your group is encouraged.
Please let us know how we can serve you in these areas. Thank you
for your patronage of our programs and for your understanding of our


Bill Troup
Superintendent of Recreation


George Rand said...

Mr Troup might need to attend a home school session and inquire as to the difference between"insure" and "ensure".

Kay Brooks said...

Yeah, I saw that but I thought I was being critical enough without pointing that out the gramatical error and commenting on it.

Anonymous said...

According to the Parks & Recreation Dept. web page for community centers:

"Clubrooms are available for use during normal operating hours for community use."

Can't find that "mission" Troup keeps referring to listed anywhere. In fact, searching the site for "mission" returns zero results. I think it will be real tough to maintain their very-visible anti-discrimination claims if they allow scouts to use it but not homeschoolers.

From the policy manual:

The Board of Parks and Recreation (the “Board”) recognizes that some
community groups do not have adequate facilities available for meetings. The Board seeks to make community center facilities available to responsible groups whose meetings will not conflict with other facility operations. The
Board also recognizes a responsibility to preclude community center uses that may raise health concerns or interfere with normal park business. For these reasons, it is declared to be the policy of the Board that community center facilities be made available on a non-discriminatory basis for meetings or responsible groups and organizations, during times when the facilities are not otherwise open to the public or required for other park uses. It is further declared to be the policy of the Board that community centers not be used for any purpose that may, in the judgment of parks personnel, damage the facilities or pose a threat to the health or safety of patrons.... The Board authorizes the Director to take measures necessary for the implementation of this policy.

Looks to me like the actual policy behooves them to make the building available to the homeschool group "after hours".

Eric Holcombe

Bob K said...

Do they allow use of the facility for public schools?

George Rand said...

Okay, Kay, but in fairness I must point out your "grammatical" error. Although I'm sure it was just a typo and hurried proof reading.

Hey, do the word verifications come out of the new Metro reading texts?

Kay Brooks said...

Have at it in the error correction arena, George. I know I'm falliable, as does my family. It probably was a typing/proofing error. And I don't really mind the corrections--I'm one of those 'life-long learners'. :-)