Legislation that changes the way certain charter schools are authorized in Tennessee is headed to the Senate floor.
The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Dolores Gresham passed the Senate Finance Committee 7-3 Wednesday. The advancing measure is one of at least three proposed versions. The previous version sought to create a state panel to authorize charter schools for five counties where there are failing schools.
Tennessee lawmakers trying to wrap up the General Assembly this month are hoping to push through two key education proposals.
One measure creates a state panel to authorize charter schools for five counties, and the other seeks to clear the way for cities to begin forming municipal school systems. The session began with several proposals aimed at continuing education reform in Tennessee.
A proposed TN state panel for approving charter schools initially rejected by local boards is again limited to just a handful of districts. The charter authorizer was going nowhere when it applied statewide.
Republican lawmakers were pulling their support when there was a possibility state-approved charters could pop up in their backyard.
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.”
A bill to create a state charter authorizer has been delayed. The sponsor now says he’s listening to critics, who say the legislation unfairly singles out Nashville and Memphis.
As written, the bill would give charter schools a way to open in Tennessee’s two largest urban areas without asking the school board – officially known as the local education authority or LEA. Rep. Mark White is the sponsor and says he could be on-board with a true statewide charter authorizer if local school boards do the initial vetting.
“If we go back to the LEAs – letting them have first input on this – this will be a statewide application,” White says.
Governor Bill Haslam is expressing reservations about a bill seeking to cap the number of foreigners working at Tennessee charter schools. The Republican governor told reporters after a prayer breakfast at Lipscomb University in Nashville on Tuesday that he is concerned about the measure headed for his consideration after passing both chambers. Haslam noted that the state is trying to promote more science, technology, engineering and math classes in the state, and that he doesn't want to close off a potential pipeline of teachers with expertise in those subjects. Haslam said he has not y