Tennessee’s two leading support groups of charter schools are merging, according to The Tennessean. Organizers say the result is the first organization of its kind in the country to both lobby for and create new publicly financed, privately operated charters. The new organization, the Tennessee Charter School Center, combines the Tennessee Charter Schools Association, a longtime charter school lobbying arm, and the Nashville-based Tennessee Charter School Incubator, launched four years ago to help get new charters off the ground.
Leading the center is Greg Thompson, who was incubator CEO. “We hope to be a voice for quality and transparency,” he said in a Wednesday announcement, arguing that parental demand for charter schools is growing.
The Tennessee Charter School Incubator, backed financially by Boston-based Building Excellent Schools, has assisted several Nashville charters as they seek Metro school board approval: Nashville Prep, Liberty Collegiate Academy, Purpose Preparatory Academy and the newly approved Valor Collegiate Academy.
In recent years, the charter schools association has watched the state legislature pass a landmark law that opened charter eligibility to all students, and legislation that lifted the caps on the number of charters that can operate in Tennessee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Metro Nashville Board of Education brought by a charter school that was ordered to be closed because of poor student performance.
The Metro School Board voted in November to shut down Smithson Craighead Middle School because the charter school ranked among the worst academic performers in the state and was losing enrollment.
Afterward, the school and parents filed a class action lawsuit against the board of education arguing that the board violated their due process and equal protection rights.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting the parents’ claim that they would be forced to send their children to inferior schools and denying that the charter’s rights were violated.
House Government Operations Committee Chairman Judd Mathney tells TNReport that he has some concerns about charter schools operated by Turkish Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gülen, but not necessarily with state legislators making a trip to Turkey financed by groups with ties to Gulen. (Previous post HERE.)
Mathney last year successfully sponsored legislation to limit the number of foreigners a Tennessee charter school can hire. Asked recently about his legislation in relation to the upcoming Turkey trip, Matheny told TNReport he believes “some of the Gülen schools…have brought in more foreign teachers than we would like to see in Tennessee.”
“I am very concerned about the proliferation of charter schools that are of non-United States origin and perhaps teach things that are contrary to our constitution here within our borders,” Metheny continued.
But Matheny also said that he’s not overly concerned about his colleagues being influenced by a free getaway.
“I’ve not talked personally with very many legislators that are going. Those that I have talked to seem to be in the frame of mind that they want to do the proper due diligence on both sides,” he said. “They also understand that those trips are not totally focused on charter schools.”
Matheny said that he had been invited on a past trip put on by the same group and declined the offer, but he was quick not to appear hostile.
“Turkey is a great ally, it’s not a country that we want to snub. It’s not a country that we don’t want to foster great relationships with,” he said. “I’m more worried about what’s happening domestically and what’s happening to our children. We want to make sure they are solid Americans.”
News release from Tennessee Charter Schools Association:
Nashville, Tn. — The Tennessee Charter Schools Association (TCSA) released the following statement upon the Senate’s refusal to hear HB 702/SB 830, the charter school authorizer reform bill:
“Along with our partners in education reform, TCSA is disappointed that the Senate refused to vote on SB 830 (HB 702) today. Unfortunately, the concept of broadening educational options for Tennessee students has once again become the victim of politics, despite thoughtful consideration over the bill through ten committees and passage in the House yesterday with a vote of 62 to 30. This legislation, which earlier in April received funding in the Governor’s budget, has been championed throughout the legislative session by education reform stakeholders including the Tennessee Charter Schools Association, Students First – Tennessee, Stand for Children – Tennessee, and Democrats for Education Reform – Tennessee.
“Strong public charter schools are leading successful education reform in our state, with many delivering the best results of all Tennessee public schools. This bill sought to strengthen the charter school authorization process, drawing the focus of decisions toward merit and expanding the possibility of excellent public charter schools throughout the state.
“TCSA is grateful for the strong leadership of House Speaker Beth Harwell, Representative Mark White, Representative Harry Brooks and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in supporting this bill and working tirelessly to improve educational options in Tennessee. We will continue to work with community and state leadership toward improvements in the law that will make great public charter schools a possibility for Tennessee families in need of options.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A measure that seeks to change the approval process for charter schools in Tennessee has failed this session.
The proposal seemed poised for a vote on the Senate floor on Friday, the last day of the session. But Republican Senate sponsor Dolores Gresham of Somerville withdrew it after she concluded she didn’t have the votes to pass it.
The House passed the companion 62-30 on Thursday.
The measure had gone through at least three versions during the General Assembly.
Under the proposal, the state Board of Education would have been able to overrule local school board decisions on charter applications in five counties where there are failing schools.
They are: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Shelby and Hardeman counties.
Currently, local school boards decide whether to authorize a charter application.
Note: The Tennessee Charter Schools Association was not happy. News release below.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The sponsor of a proposal that seeks to change the way certain charter schools are authorized said Wednesday the measure is needed to continue education reform in Tennessee.
The legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville passed the Senate Finance Committee 7-3 and was sent to the full Senate.
The advancing measure is one of at least three versions that have been proposed. The previous version sought to create a state panel to authorize charter schools for five counties where there are failing schools.
Those counties include more than 330,000 students in the state’s four largest cities: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Shelby. Hardeman County also would be affected.
Currently, local school boards decide whether to authorize a charter application. There are currently 48 charters operating in Tennessee.
Under the latest proposal, the state Board of Education would be able to overrule local school board decisions on charter applications in the lowest-performing school districts.
The bill also gives an applicant approved by the Board of Education 30 days to return to the school district if the two can reach an agreement.
“It’s a way to get there,” Gresham said. “And we’re going to get there: a world class system of education in Tennessee.”
Members of the committee who at one time opposed the proposal appeared to be comfortable with the latest version. For one, the cost to create the panel was close to $240,000, where the new proposal drops the amount to $199,000.
The advancing proposal also would provide a more detailed hearing process before a decision is made on an application, as well as require some oversight from the state Department of Education.
“While it’s not perfect, I think it’s a good piece of legislation,” said committee vice chairman Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga.
However, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle didn’t seem too pleased with the measure, saying “this cake is not baked.”
The Memphis Democrat, whose city contains 69 failing schools, was unsuccessful in passing an amendment that sought to place a charter school within two miles of a failing school.
“We want them located where the people are who need them,” he said.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the 108th Tennessee General Assembly draws to a close, state lawmakers are hoping to push through education proposals that include creating a state panel to authorize charter schools for five counties and a measure that would clear the way for cities to begin forming municipal school systems.
The session, which lawmakers are trying to wrap up this month, began with several proposals aimed at continuing education reform in Tennessee. They included Gov. Bill Haslam’s initiative to create a school voucher program and a so-called parent trigger measure that would allow parents to decide the fate of a struggling school.
Both of those proposals have failed.
However, the charter school proposal could be heading to the governor soon for his consideration. The bill is waiting to be scheduled for a vote by the full House, and the Senate Finance Committee is expected to take up a companion bill on Monday.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A proposal that would create a special panel to authorize charter schools in several Tennessee counties passed a key legislative committee on Wednesday and is headed for a full House vote after the bill was amended to provide oversight of the entity.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark White of Memphis was approved on a voice vote in the House Finance Committee and will now be scheduled for a vote on the House floor.
The panel would oversee five of the state’s lowest-performing counties: Davidson, Hamilton, Hardeman, Knox and Shelby.
Charter schools are public schools that are funded with state and local tax dollars. But they don’t have to meet some of the state regulations that traditional public schools do as they try to find different ways to improve student learning.
Currently, local school boards decide whether to authorize a charter application. There are 48 charter schools in Tennessee.
Even though for-profit charter school companies targeted the Tennessee legislature with several lobbyists this year, their agenda appeared dead until a last-minute bid slid through last week, reports The Tennessean. The plan to allow for-profit charter schools in Tennessee twice failed in Senate committees this year. But an eleventh-hour change to a noncontroversial bill originally created to clean up a few charter school rules started the debate again.
The newest plan is sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and is headed to a full Senate vote after last week sailing through the Senate Education Committee that she chairs. It has not been placed on the voting calendar yet.
…When she offered her changes to colleagues, Gresham said “As we all know, charter schools are an important part of ongoing education reform. Now that we see the real value of charter schools, now we have one more step.”
A spokesman for the Tennessee School Boards Association believes lobbyists can take some credit for the amendment Gresham introduced to allow for-profit companies. The original bill that Gresham chose to amend is Senate Bill 205; it has a counterpart in House Bill 315.
The House bill will be considered by the Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee on Wednesday. At that time, a representative on the committee can offer an amendment similar to Gresham’s. The House bill was originally sponsored by Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, who chairs the House Education Committee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A measure that would create a special panel to authorize charter school applications for failing schools is advancing in the state Legislature.
The measure was approved on a voice vote in the House Budget Subcommittee on Wednesday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
Currently local school boards decide whether to authorize a charter application. There are 48 charter schools in Tennessee.
Under the new legislation, the nine-member panel would be appointed by the governor and speakers of the House and Senate. Failing, or priority, schools would apply directly to the panel. There are about 80 failing schools.
All other schools would follow the normal process of applying to the school district, then the State Board of Education if turned down.