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NASHVILLE — Five charter schools in Hamilton County have been awarded nearly $200,000 under a Tennessee Department of Education Charter Schools Facilities fund established under Gov. Bill Lee's budget.

The grants, announced Monday by Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, were among $5.85 million made statewide to 117 of the public but privately run K-12 schools.

Local charter schools slated for funds are:

* Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence: $47,600

* Chattanooga Charter School of Excellent Middle School: $30,600

* Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy: $49,504

* Chattanooga Preparatory School: $19,040

* Ivy Academy Inc.: $51,272

The taxpayer dollars, distributed in six local school districts according to enrollment, are aimed at ensuring students in a Tennessee charter school "are being educated in an environment that supports student achievement, safety, and well-being," according to a state release.

Funds can be spent on property purchases to relocate or establish a school, fund general improvements to existing facilities, assist with costs associated with purchasing/leasing underutilized or vacant property as well as support existing capital outlay projects.

Next month, the remaining $6 million will be made available to all charter schools throughout the state through a competitive grant process, education officials say.

In his first year as governor, Lee, a Republican, pushed through the GOP-led legislature a controversial law creating a new charter school commission. The commission, appointed by Lee, can overrule decisions made by locally elected school boards to deny charter applications.

Previously, the responsibility for approving charters rested with the State Board of Education where members, which included school superintendents, were often hesitant to overrule local decisions.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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