By Steve Gunn
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In many states across the nation, local public school boards have the authority to reject applications for new charter schools that would be established within their districts.
Predictably, many school boards have shot down many proposed charter schools.
It’s not because the board members necessarily doubt the ability of charter schools to serve students. It’s because students that leave traditional schools for charter schools take their share of state dollars with them, costing the traditional district money.
Many state lawmakers in Tennessee don’t believe the potential value of a charter school should be determined by whether it will put a dent in a local district’s budget. If the new schools will provide a valuable service to students, they believe they should be approved.
They’re trying to address that problem by creating a state authority that could approve charter schools that were vetoed by local school boards, according to KnoxNews.com. The legislation, which is scheduled for a full vote in the state House and a vote in the Senate Finance Committee, would apply to county school systems that have at least one school ranking academically among the lowest five percent in the state.
That would include Knox, Hardeman, Shelby, Hamilton and Davidson counties. Memphis is in Shelby County while Nashville is in Davidson County.
Proposed charter schools that are blocked in other counties would have the right to appeal to the state board of education, according to the news report.
The legislation has changed form as it has moved through the legislative process. An earlier version would have applied to only Nashville and Memphis, while another would have applied to the entire state.
The state charter board would have nine members, three appointed by the governor, three by the House speaker and three by the Senate majority leader, the news report said.
The legislation is opposed by teachers unions, of course. That’s because most charter schools do not hire union teachers, but they can cost union teachers in traditional schools their jobs if enough students leave those schools and layoffs become necessary.
Tennessee is just one of several states to attempt to address this problem. Last fall voters in Georgia passed a state referendum creating a similar authority.