NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An Arizona-based charter school company says it won’t try to place schools in Tennessee until the state creates a more impartial charter school approval process.
The statement came from Great Hearts Academies on Wednesday after the Metro Nashville school board denied the company’s application for a third time.
School board members said they were concerned that a Great Hearts Academy would draw from affluent white families, rather than bringing in students from other parts of the city to create a more diverse student body.
Great Hearts said it might reapply “when Tennessee’s laws and charter approval process more effectively provide for open enrollment, broad service to the community and impartial authorizers,” according to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/Q4UANe).
The Tennessee Charter School Association is researching methods used in other states to remove politics.
“Every application should not be a brand-new political discussion,” said Matt Throckmorton, the association’s executive director. “It is the children of Nashville that lose out to adult problems, again.”
He said the group may propose legislation in the upcoming General Assembly that will allow charter applicants to work with local boards of education during the application process without the intrusion of politics.
“We are going to have charter schools — the law has been written,” Throckmorton said.
The school board’s vote Tuesday defied an order by the state Board of Education that the charter application be approved. Great Hearts had appealed to the state after being denied twice by Metro.
The state could have responded to the refusal by cutting off funding to the Nashville school system.
Mayor Karl Dean, a charter schools supporter, described the school board’s latest denial as “a sad day for the children of Nashville who would have benefited from the high-quality education Great Hearts was ready to offer.”
School board member Jill Speering said she voted in favor of Great Hearts because there’s no “clear diversity plan.” Speering said she and other board members hope to create one that can be viewed in advance by charter applicants so they know what Metro officials are looking for in a new charter school.
“Because of that, we are partly at fault that there are misunderstandings between us,” she said.