The state could be the one approving new charter schools instead of their districts as part of a proposal from Governor Bill Haslam. Right now applicants looking to set up charter schools must first win approval from their local school districts.
Haslam’s proposal would let the state serve as an “alternate authorizer” of charters for struggling schools under its control.
Tennessee Charter Schools Association President Matt Throckmorton says that’s one way the state could push charters in districts that have been reluctant to embrace them.
“There are some school districts that have just really not wanted charter schools at all… And so the hope here is that with an alternate authorizer that it would actually bring the districts along a little bit.”
Throckmorton didn’t want to name those districts.
The proposal would also get rid of eligibility restrictions on charters, whose students currently have to be failing, come from failing schools, or be on free or reduced lunch. Throckmorton says dropping those rules could open some suburbs to charter schools, among them Sumner and Williamson counties.
The governor’s charter-schools bill is currently set to come up in the House Education Subcommittee next week.
This provision would only affect schools in the jurisdiction of the Achievement School District – that is, schools “meeting a federal definition of persistently lowest achieving” and thus in “Restructuring 2 or beyond” under the state.
The ASD was created as part of last year’s “First to the Top” legislation; several schools have been identified to become the first under the ASD in the coming school year.
As written, HB1989 would add “or the Achievement School District as defined in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-1-614″ after the word “education” in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-13-104(2).
That code currently states that “‘Chartering authority’ means the local board of education that approves, renews or decides not to revoke a public charter school application or agreement.”