NASHVILLE -- Efforts to let for-profit companies run public charter schools failed this morning in a House panel after Republican Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville, a long-time champion of charters, spoke out against it.
Harwell told the Republican-controlled Calendar and Rules Committee that she had kept out of the debate until then but was "taking off my hat as speaker" because it was her last opportunity her concerns before the bill hit the House floor.
"I have some grave reservations about this legislation," Harwell said. "I have worked tirelessly on the charter school movement in this state for many years now.
"We are still in our infancy in public charters in this state and I don't want the financial aspects of for-profits to enter into what I think our ultimate goal is, to provide quality public schools for our children," Harwell added.
She read a letter from Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, also a proponent of charter schools, expressing concern about the legislation.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, failed on a 10-7 vote with one member abstaining.
Charter schools are taxpayer-funded but privately run public schools that are free of many of the rules and regulations of traditional public schools. Current law restrictions them to being run by nonprofit entities.