Charter School Shenanigans

Gov. Haslam Likes Chocolate Pie This Much
via Nashville Scene
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam likes Charter Schools. In fact, he likes them so much that he wants to remove any caps on the number that can be chartered in the state and make sure locals have no say in the matter if they don’t want them.

Have some chocolate pie, it’ll make you feel better.

When Governor Haslam introduced his legislative agenda last month, removing local control over the approval of charter schools wasn’t one of the things that was heralded. Nope, most folks talked about tenure reform for those greedy no good teachers. That, of course, caused a stir that made the good Governor ask for more civil dialogue from the legislature.

I really think you need more pie now.

Of course, I guess calling for civility just five days after you said you can do what you want without the support of the loyal opposition is strategery.

Just a little more pie now…

The bill, HB 1989 would remove all limitations on who can attend Charter Schools, allow potential charter schools to apply with the state rather than the local school board, remove the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, and change the process for dealing with revocations.

The biggest issue is that local school boards will lose the right to control the public educational affairs in their districts if the state approval process goes forward.

Which raises several questions. Will the local school district have to contribute to the Charter School that it had no say in creating? What about the County Commission, who is responsible for funding a huge portion of the cost of education through property taxes, will they also have to fund these separately, through the school district that had no say in the charter school, or directly to the state?

What about the enrollment provisions. It is my understanding that Charter Schools were designed to give students from underperforming schools access to better schools in their area. By removing the requirements for enrollment, what’s to stop charter schools from cherry picking the creme of the crop and leaving the underprivileged behind?

What this really looks like to me is a Trojan Horse, that I’m sure isn’t filled with chocolate pie.

See Also: Haslam Bill Would Make State “Alternate Authorizer” of Charters

2 Replies to “Charter School Shenanigans”

  1. Some corrections.

    First, the main points of this story came from an earlier one released today that confused issues. The Governor’s bill does lift the cap, and remove restrictions on eligibility, more on that in a moment.

    When it comes to the authorizing of charters at the state level, this is where the confusion lies and snowballs. When Governor Bredesen passed legislation in a special session last year to enable the Race To The Top application it created the Achievement School District, and spoke of allowing non-profits, etc to run them. It was understood that charter schools could serve as a non-profit for these purposes, but for some it was not clear. The language in HB 1989 clarifies that the ASD can authorizer charters within the jurisdiction of the ASD. This is not a statewide authorizer at all. It only clarifies that the ASD can authorize charters to take over schools in Restructuring 2, or those that have failed to make AYP 6-years in a row. Only those schools.

    Back to enrollment. It is very clear that all Tennessee students can attend a charter but if there are more applicants then spots those who have failed to pass TCAP get priority over all other students, and it remains a lottery.

    Finally, it does remove the cap on the number of charters but the application process remains the same. And it is currently one of the toughest in the nation. Most applicants fail to gain passage. In fact, about 75-80% of all applicants fail, that means only 20-25% pass.

    This is much ado about nothing, but good discussion.

    1. Joseph,

      I understand where you’re coming from, however, that’s not reflected in the bill abstract. In fact, the abstract it lists six qualifiers for enrollment in a charter school then states: This bill removes these limitations on who may attend a charter school and instead allows any student in the charter school’s jurisdiction to attend the school.

      In looking at state code 49-13-113 I see that others that fall outside these rules may be enrolled in a charter school, however, the neediest must be given priority. So would this bill then make it open enrollment for all students that fall under the jurisdiction? If so, doesn’t that defeat the rationale for Charter Schools in the first place?

      As for the “chartering” of a school, 48-13-108 clearly states that chartering is vested in the LEA, not any “Achievement School District”. In fact, I see no section of code that deals with an “Achievement School District” chartering any Charter schools.However, if an LEA or individual school is taken over by the state Dept. of Education, then based on my reading of that section, 49-1-614 and 49-1-602 it becomes an “Achievement School District” for the purposes of corrective action. So, if this bill becomes law, it is conceivable that a single school, or group of schools within a district could fall into this category, which would allow the state to then approve a charter school in the area even if the local School Board has denied that application before the establishment of the ASD.

      In any case, this would effectively cut out the local LEA from the process, which was my point, on the way to the state effectively approving a Charter School.

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