State Law Doesn’t Help Local Officials Dealing With Troubled Charter

The Chair of Nashville’s board of education says state laws governing charter schools ought to be, in her words, “stronger.”

This week, the district essentially put a Drexel Preparatory Academy on probation for the rest of the year. The school is in trouble for not providing enough federally-mandated services to students with learning disabilities and those who are learning English.

Metro Schools had questions about the school from the start. It initially turned down Drexel’s charter application, citing concerns that its organizers weren’t well enough prepared. Drexel appealed, the state intervened, and the school opened this fall.

School board chair Gracie Porter says some of the problems now with Drexel could have been headed off if Tennessee law were more clear about what is expected of charter schools. And she says the law isn’t explicit enough about what local officials can or should do when issues arise.

“There’s absolutely nothing in that law that says we can put them on probation or whatever the case might be, but yet it’s left to the district to make that adjustment.”

The law does say the district can revoke a charter, essentially shutting the school down. In the case of Drexel, the school board considered doing that this week, a move that would have forced more than 200 students to change schools midway through the year, but ultimately decided to wait and reconsider in May.

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