TN Education News Notes: Charter School Policy, TEA Membership, Etc.

‘Bad policy’ on Charter Schools?
State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says it’s “bad policy” for school districts to systematically deny charter school applications, whether for financial reasons or because the community is in upheaval over a pending school merger., reports the Commercial Appeal.
“We need to get out of the business of believing that (the per-pupil) funding belongs to the school system, that our goal is to preserve funding for that school system,” Kevin Huffman told The Commercial Appeal editorial board Thursday.
Instead, he said, the mindset should be that “parents should have a role in figuring out where their kid is going to go to school, and it is appropriate for funding to move with the child to a new public school.”
He was responding to last week’s decision by the unified Shelby County Board of Education to deny 14 applications for new charter schools. Officials said the fiscal consequences of opening so many schools would endanger the viability of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools. Last spring, the state legislature gave districts the prerogative to reject charters if the schools would have a “substantial negative fiscal impact” on the school district.

Praise for Student Teacher Data Sharing
Tennessee is one of only six states giving feedback to its colleges of education on how their graduates are doing in the classroom, reports WPLN, and that has won praise in a study out from the Data Quality Campaign.
The annual survey shows Tennessee and most other states now have all the numbers they need on teacher effectiveness in the classroom. The problem is convincing states to make the information public, says the Data Quality Campaign’s Paige Kowalski.
“Sharing in general is just difficult because you just don’t know what the recipient is going to do with it, and they could do something that’s going to put the data provider in an awkward situation.”
Kowalski says Tennessee is pushing through the awkwardness and leading the country in some respects. This year the Tennessee Higher Education Commission started releasing a report on the effectiveness of teacher programs.

TEA Membership Down, PET Membership Up
Enrollment to the state’s largest teachers’ union is on the decline after the state OK’d sweeping changes to collective bargaining laws, but TNReport notes that a rival educators’ association says their ranks are growing.
Professional Educators of Tennessee say their association has seen a 10.6 percent membership uptick in the last year. Meanwhile, several Tennessee Education Association chapters in Middle Tennessee have collectively lost 24 percent of their dues-paying members on automatic payroll deductions, according to statistics first reported by the Tennessean.
“I’m just glad that we have injected competition into the system,” said Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, who sponsored the Education Professional Collaborative Conferencing Act this spring. The law gives school districts the autonomy to set education policy without the approval of a teachers’ union.
“No one organization or one union should have an explicit right to negotiate on behalf of all teachers,” he said. “I’m not surprised. I’m ecstatic.”
The TEA represents the lion’s share of public school teachers in the state and is affiliated with the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union.
The TEA says it will have official membership numbers later this month, but admits membership is dropping.
“I think the whole intention behind this legislation was to try to hurt our membership,” said Jerry Winters, a lobbyist for the TEA.

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