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.
Lawyers handling the County Commission’s municipal school district lawsuit have asked the entire Tennessee legislature for “all communications or letters,” including e-mail, regarding the consolidation of the city and county schools and the creation of new municipal school districts.
More from The Commercial Appeal: The request by lawyers from the Baker Donelson law firm includes communications from “any citizen, constituents, residents or anyone else,” legislative administrators said Monday.
Unlike the commission legal team’s search for other information in the case, the request directed to the General Assembly was not issued in the form of a subpoena, a legal demand that the requested material be delivered. However, legislative officials said they are complying with the request and sent a letter Friday to all 132 members of the General Assembly and their aides “asking them to review their records in their office and if they had anything they felt fell under the scope of the request to please provide it to” the Office of Legislative Administration, Director of Legislative Administration Connie Ridley said.
Ridley said her office, which handles the legislative branch’s administrative functions, received the request letter from Baker Donelson attorney Lori Patterson. The letter asks for “all communications or letters received in any format, including electronic mail, from any citizen, constituent, resident or anyone else concerning or related to the consolidation of the Memphis City Schools with the Shelby County school system, the creation of municipal or special
school districts in Shelby County or any legislation, bill, ordinance or resolution related thereto.”
Ridley said she wrote the attorneys back July 26 asking for clarification because the request was very broad and “in order to help us respond quickly, it would help to narrow it down.” She received the response Friday and forwarded the information request to all members of the legislature and their aides.
Patterson’s response indicated the attorneys were interested in any communications regarding the three bills affecting the school consolidation effort and new municipal school districts that won legislative approval in 2011 and 2012.
The request is the latest in the County Commission’s legal efforts to block creation of six new school districts in the Shelby County suburbs, all of which were approved by their respective voters Thursday. The lawsuit alleges that the new-district movement is an effort to re-segregate schools on the basis of race, in violation of federal law.
Although the attorneys have not said so, the subpoena issued to The Commercial Appeal demanding identities of people who posted online comments on school consolidation articles on the newspaper’s website and the request for information to lawmakers are believed to be an attempt to gather indications of racial motivation by some advocates of the new school systems.
As Shelby County’s suburban cities prepare for Aug. 2 referendums to create municipal school districts, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says those communities may not realize how much it will cost to run a school system., reports the Commercial Appeal. Haslam has said he wanted the Transition Planning Commission to complete its work to merge Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools before the suburbs decide on municipal districts. However, he signed the new legislation that allows the municipalities to hold referendums this year.
Still, in a perfect world, even the merger plans would have waited until the school system was further along with other initiatives, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Race to the Top and the new teacher evaluation procedures, Haslam said Wednesday during a visit with The Commercial Appeal’s editorial board.
“For the suburban towns to subtract themselves from that and set up their own school system, I would have loved for that to have been given more time. Let’s let the transition plan come out, get in place and let people evaluate it,” Haslam said. Note: See also the Politifact Tennessee article, wherein Haslam is rated as making a full flip-flop on the Shelby schools issue.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to transfer certain services from the Board of Probation and Parole to the Department of Correction is headed to the governor for his consideration.
The measure was unanimously approved 30-0 in the Senate on Monday evening after lawmakers agreed to minor changes by the House.
Tennessee correction officials have said the proposal will save thousands of dollars and improve public safety.
The legislation would move certain functions relating to probation and parole services and the community corrections program, which assists victims and offers more options to local courts, to the Correction Department.
The transfer is expected to “result in increased stability, increased efficiency and continuity of supervision delivery and rehabilitative efforts,” according to the legislation.
Members of Tennessee’s Republican congressional delegation are reserving judgment on giving President Barack Obama authority to merge several business-focused federal agencies, while being quick to criticize the Democratic leader for not doing more.
From Michael Collins report: “It’s not nearly enough,” says U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. “I applaud any effort to save money in the federal government, but this really isn’t even a drop in the bucket.”
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann echoed Duncan’s statement. “I’m always in favor of reducing the size of the federal government and making it work more efficiently. However, for President Obama to act as if this is a major step in that direction is laughable.”
In his 2011 State of the Union address, Obama pledged to develop a plan to merge, consolidate and reorganize the federal government “in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.” In January, he laid out part of that plan.
Speaking to business leaders in the White House’s East Room, Obama said he would ask Congress for the authority to merge six agencies that focus primarily on commerce and trade. Other presidents have had the restructuring authority that Obama is seeking. Congress granted that authority to the White House during the Great Depression, but let it expire in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan was in office.