TEA: Poll shows TN voters not concerned with charter schools, but want them accountable

News release from Tennessee Education Association:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Poll results released today by In the Public Interest (ITPI) and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), national organizations with expertise in national and community-level education policy, found that registered voters in Tennessee are not concerned with school choice and strongly favor accountability for charter schools.

“When Tennesseans were asked to rank important issues facing the state’s public schools, school choice came in dead last,” said Barbara Gray, Arlington Community Schools administrator and TEA president. “This poll shows that legislators need to redirect their attention to the issues that really matter to Tennesseans, like parental involvement, over-emphasis on standardized testing and cuts to programs like physical education and music. School choice isn’t even on the radar of the average Tennessean, despite what some out-of-state groups may tell legislators.”

The poll of Tennessee voters, conducted by GBA Strategies on behalf of ITPI and CDP, was part of a larger nationwide survey on public opinion of charter schools.

In Tennessee, participants overwhelmingly favor charter school reform proposals and common sense accountability for these schools. Nearly 80 percent of participants strongly believe charter schools should not harm local public schools and should be held to the same accountability as public schools.

“Tennesseans believe in their local public schools,” said Gray. “The survey results are a clear indication that Tennesseans want their local schools protected and to see proper financial investment from the state in the public schools that already have a proven record of success.”

Poll results also revealed that nearly all registered Tennessee voters want charter school educators held to the same qualification standards as public schools and that charters be required to serve students with special needs at the same rates as local public schools.

TEA has worked with legislators to introduce legislation that directly addresses the issues raised in the poll. First, a TEA-backed bill would put a claw-back provision into place requiring charter schools with a high student turnover rate to return taxpayer money to the district. A second TEA bill would give parents the ability to sign a petition against a charter school taking over a local public school, or petition to close a failing charter school.

“I hope legislators will take to heart what we have learned from this poll – the only people who think charter schools and school choice are important for student success are the out-of-state organizations who seek to profit from these privatization schemes. Huge majorities of Tennessee voters support prioritizing neighborhood schools over charters, implementing more common sense accountability for charters and greater protections that taxpayer money is being spent appropriately by charter operators. It is important that Tennessee take a cautious, measured approach to any further charter expansion in our state.” the TEA president said.

Note: A memo on the poll, giving some more details, is available by clicking this link: TEApollmemo