Charters Schools Denied By Local Districts Could Soon Turn To State For Approval

Tennessee's Senate ultimately voted 20-13 to approve a state charter authorizer on Thursday. (Photo: Daniel Potter/WPLN)

Tennessee’s Senate voted 20-13 to approve a state charter authorizer on Thursday. (Photo: Daniel Potter/WPLN)

The state school board could soon get the power to sign off on new charter schools, if a local district refuses.  The state Senate signed off Thursday on the proposal, sought by Nashville’s top lawmaker, House Speaker Beth Harwell.

The measure is a response to a 2012 fight between Metro Schools and Arizona-based Great Hearts Academies, which wanted to expand into Nashville, but was repeatedly denied.

The bill would let the state step in and grant approval instead, but only in a handful of school districts.  That prompted Democrats like Jim Kyle to complain it takes away from local governments’ authority to say no.  Kyle also bristled the senators passing the bill mostly represent counties it would not affect.

“I stand and ask each and every member of this senate as to why you are putting that process on my constituents, my LEA and my schools and not your own.”

A handful of Republicans also voted against the bill, which passed in a slightly different form than the House approved.  It now returns to that chamber before heading to the governor.

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