Knox Prep: Prepared or Not?

On April 6, the Knox County Board of Education heard a proposal from the Knoxville Preparatory School to open a charter school. The proposal would allow public school tax dollars to be allocated to Knoxville Prep. With one board member absent, the vote came to a 4-4 deadlock, meaning the motion failed. 

The building that, if passed, will house Knoxville Prep.

This school would do more harm than good for our city and community. According to this article, the school would be located near Whittle Springs Middle School and Vine Middle School, potentially becoming a problem for both schools, as they can lose students, primarily students of color, to the prep school. The NAACP is actively pushing against this proposal. They claim that the school’s opening could lead to the closure of public schools. Also, they state that the school would pull tax money from public schools, harming the remaining public schools. 

I don’t think opening this school is a good idea. The main reason is due to the money being deducted from our public schools. Jennifer Owen, Central’s Board of Education representative, said this about the topic: “At this time, I do not believe funding an all-boys charter school is the best use of the tax dollars that have been set aside for our public schools. Our funds should be used for ALL students, rather than a few who are selected by a private organization.” Her main point is that the taxpayer dollars needed for public schools would go to the preparatory school. 

I agree with Owen’s point. In Chattanooga, there is already a preparatory school open. Chattanooga Prep, compared to the public schools in its area, is doing worse. At Chattanooga Prep, 37% of students were at a proficient level for math, and only 17% of students were at a proficient level for reading. In the Hamilton County District, 42% were at the proficient level of math, and 33% were at the proficient level of reading. With Knox Prep, I believe that the school would show no level of growth for the children educationally. 

In middle school, I attended Knoxville’s only charter school, Emerald Academy. The school was very complicated. Education-wise, the standards are pretty high, as a high level of mastery is expected out of every student. The school’s main motto was being “college ready”; being college ready out of eighth grade is a pretty large task. Going into high school was very different. The expectation here is very lenient compared to Emerald Academy. The teachers are more compassionate, and the environment is more accepting. 

The Knox County School Board discussing the proposal.

The school board was given until May 1 to come up with a reason to deny the proposal from Knox Prep, otherwise it would be automatically approved. On the morning of April 20, the Board scheduled a special meeting on April 27 to settle the matter. 

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