Democrats Call Statewide Charter Authorizer ‘Death Panel for Public Schools’

The idea for a new state-level panel that could authorize charter schools to operate anywhere in Tennessee is moving ahead, while facing bi-partisan resistance. The House Education Committee gave its blessing Tuesday, though two Republicans voted against it.

The GOP lawmakers opposing what is seen as an end-run around local school boards are educators themselves. Rep. Jim Coley teaches in Shelby County. 

“Increasingly we’re taking those decisions away from local education associations, and I don’t think that’s right.”

As a whole, Democrats have opposed the authorizing of charter schools at the state level. Rep. Mike Turner of Old Hickory predicts it will hurt school districts.

“This panel, I don’t think it’s too far to call them death panels for public schools if they go through as is.”

The panel is supposed to be bi-partisan. And while the Tennessee Charter School Association gets to recommend members, so do groups representing school boards and superintendents.

Nashville Democrats have proposed a cap on charters in any one district, so the privately-run, publicly-funded schools could account for no more than 10 percent of a district’s budget. New charter schools opening in Metro Nashville next year are estimated to cost an extra $15 million.

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