published Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Tennessee Senate approves statewide charter school 'authorizer'

NASHVILLE — The state Senate today approved a statewide "authorizer" for public charter schools that would affect Hamilton County and four other school systems that have schools falling into the state's bottom 5 percent.

Senators approved the bill on a 20-12 vote. Although they were acting on a House-passed bill, senators added an amendment that sends the measure back to the House for approval.

The bill would allow the state Board of Education to approve charter school applications rejected by local school districts that have failing schools. That list currently includes Hamilton, Davidson, Knox, Shelby and Hardeman counties.

Most of Tennessee's charter schools are in Nashville and Memphis, but three are open in Chattanooga.

charged the bill goes "totally against the concept of local control" and will allow the State Board of Education to oversee charter schools it authorizes against local school systems' wishes.

"If you got a problem with that school, you've got to deal with the Nashville bureaucracy," warned Kyle, noting 90 of 95 counties at present would not be affected. "There's not an outcry. I would ask you to ask yourself whether would do this to your students."

When problems aren't worked out, unhappy parents "are going to call their local legislators," Kyle said.

The bill, which has been pushed by House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, arose out of a dispute in which Metro Nashville schools turned down a charter school operator's request to operate several schools in suburban areas.

That in turn evolved into a dispute between Nashville schools and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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