The Hamilton County Board of Education again rejected an application for a new charter school, this time against the recommendation of school administrators.
Board members voted 4-2 to approve a resubmitted application for the New Consortium of Law and Business, a proposed business- and law-themed school for sixth through 12th grades, but that was one vote short of the five required for approval.
The decision opens up the possibility for charter applicant Tommie Henderson to appeal to the state board of education.
In November, school administrators initially gave Henderson's application a score of 65.53 out of a possible 100 points. The board followed officials' recommendations in November and voted not to approve the application.
At a special board meeting Tuesday, administrators recommended approval of the resubmitted application, which they scored 81.708.
Henderson was not at Tuesday's meeting but in an interview afterward said he would speak with New Consortium board members that evening about the organization's options.
"It's probably safe to say that we will appeal the decision," he said. "It's just another part of the process."
While he was disappointed, Henderson said he was encouraged that school administrators advised board members to accept the application. "We are thrilled that the school administration was supportive of our application and recommended approval," he said.
Several board members warned that, if rejected, Henderson's application likely would be approved by the state board on appeal.
"It's probably not good for a local board to put yourself in a position where you're being overturned by the state," board member Jeffrey Wilson said. "I hope this board will use some discretion."
Wilson noted that such a scenario took place when Ivy Academy's charter school application was denied several times by the Hamilton County board in 2007 and 2008 before the decision was overturned by the state board. The school opened in Soddy-Daisy in 2010.
Tuesday's vote sparked discussion over the value of charter schools and the state's charter school application procedure.
"A charter school is a business," said board member Everett Fairchild. "And it's going to take money and resources out of our community," he said. "I'm well aware the state may overrule us, but I've got too many problems with it to vote for it."
Board members George Ricks and Rhonda Thurman each spoke in favor of public charters.
"I'm not afraid of competition," Ricks said. "I think competition is good for public schools."
Thurman said some of Hamilton County's public schools would be shut down if they had to meet the same standards as charter schools, which can be closed for not meeting state benchmarks two years in a row.
"I just wish that some of our own schools had to line up the same standards as charter schools," she said.