For-Profit Charter School Proposal Revived With Help From Memphis Democrat

Aspire is a charter school in Memphis. Like all charters in Tennessee, it is operated by a non-profit entity. Credit: TN Photo Services

Aspire is a charter school in Memphis. Like all charters in Tennessee, it is operated by a non-profit entity. Credit: TN Photo Services

A push to open Tennessee to for-profit charter school operators has been revived at the state capitol. Currently, only non-profit entities can get public money to run a charter.

But Rep. John Deberry (D-Memphis) argues it’s at least worth talking about getting rid of the non-profit requirement. After all, he says, the charter school movement is based on the idea that competition is a good thing.

“You know, to turn a profit, they’re probably going to have to do it better than we’ve done before, or they’re not gonna turn a profit.”

Still, critics say the competition can go too far, creating more incentive to dismiss students who are hard to teach.

Backers of for-profit charters – who include education committee chairs in both chambers – are being more upfront about their intentions this year. (Mention of “for-profit entity” is removed from originally 2002 charter school law.) Lawmakers attempted to amend other charter school proposals to strike the non-profit requirement in the final days of last year’s session.

Even if for-profit charters do succeed on another try, Tennessee would hardly be breaking new ground. According to Forbes, more than three quarters of all charters in Michigan are run by for-profit groups.

Three lobbyists are registered on behalf of Michigan-based National Heritage Academies, which wants to move into Tennessee.

Nina Cardona and Daniel Potter contributed to this report.

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