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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Memphis state representative is proposing a change in the so-called parent trigger education law that would give the state final approval.
A statute updated in 2011 allows parents to force education reforms at their children’s public schools, but it requires a 60 percent parent approval and local school boards must sign off on the efforts.
Democratic Rep. John Deberry told WPLN radio his bill is intended to start a conversation about making it easier for parents to force reform. He is proposing that a simple majority of parents’ signatures on a petition should allow that a school be transformed into a charter or closed altogether.
If Deberry’s initiative is adopted, parents whose petition has been turned down by a local school board could appeal that decision to state officials.
The bill was filed Wednesday.
“One thing we can’t do is we can’t continue to support the status quo,” Deberry said.
The Tennessean reported that under Deberry’s plan, a school would have to be in the bottom 20 percent statewide for parents to enact the trigger provision — a remedy Deberry also wants available if 51 percent of a school’s teachers petition.
Deberry’s bill would allow conversion to a charter school or the use of one of four models under the federal “Race to the Top” program. Those include a turnaround model, a restart model, a transformation model and school closure.
Parent trigger laws have been used only a few times around the country.
The trigger concept is pushed by a group called Student First. The organization donated more than $100,000 to Deberry’s election campaign. Deberry said he didn’t solicit the group’s financial support and isn’t beholden to it.
“They want to be close to a legislator who has the guts and the courage to say what has to be said and to accept whatever political fallout that comes to fight the battles that I believe in,” he said.
Note: The bill is deemed a priority of StudentsFirst, which spent around $110,000 to help Rep. DeBerry get reelected. Prior relevant post HERE.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Legislation that would allow parents to decide the fate of a struggling school is among several education-related proposals lawmakers are likely to discuss during the 108th Tennessee General Assembly that convenes Tuesday.
Officials have made reforming education a top priority since Tennessee became one of two states to first receive federal Race to the Top funding about three years ago. Lawmakers expect to take up more proposals this year, including so-called parent trigger legislation, creation of school vouchers, reshaping online schools and boosting community colleges.
The parent trigger measure has drawn national attention since parents in California stepped in to turn around a failing school there and the state’s Supreme Court upheld their actions.
Brent Easley, state director for the Tennessee chapter of StudentsFirst, a national grassroots movement to reform school systems across the country, said a sponsor is being sought to introduce Tennessee legislation that’s similar to California’s proposal. (Note: StudentsFirst’s PAC made about $427,000 in donations to Tennessee campaigns last year, by the Commercial Appeal’s count.)
Under the proposal, if 51 percent of parents at a school in the bottom 20 percent of failing schools believe that a drastic change is needed, they can then select from several “turnaround models.” For instance, they may want to convert it to a charter school, change the administrators or just close the school.