Haslam Backs Off Threats to Withhold State Money from MNPS

Gov. Bill Haslam poses with students in Clarksville Thursday announcing a federal enhancement grant. Photo by Blake Farmer/WPLN

Governor Bill Haslam is walking back the suggestion Metro Schools could lose state money for not approving a controversial new charter school. This week’s board vote is being followed at the highest levels of state government.

In the governor’s view, Metro had no choice in the matter. The state board of education ordered the district to approve the charter application from Arizona-based Great Hearts Academies. Ignoring that directive is akin to breaking state law, but Haslam says the students shouldn’t have to pay the price.

“Ultimately, we’ll have to think about what we do if Metro school board doesn’t go along with what the law is. That being said, threatening to withhold money, that’s not the business we’re in in the state. We’re in the business of educating children.”

Haslam says he’d prefer the board just approve Great Hearts. Metro has criticized the charter school organization for focusing on middle and upper class families. A state law passed last year allows any student to attend a charter, not just those in poverty or zoned for a failing school.

The state’s education commissioner has warned that the district may face repercussions, which have yet to be spelled out.

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