On 8-7 Vote, For-Profit Charter School Operators Approved By House Committee

Charter schools have to be non-profit entities in order to be authorized, but the bill would let the authorizer also approve contracts with for-profit entities. (Photo: camknows/flickr)

Charter schools have to be non-profit entities in order to be authorized, but the bill would let the authorizer also approve contracts with for-profit entities. (Photo: camknows/flickr)

A proposal to let for-profit companies manage Tennessee charter schools is headed for floor votes in both the state House and Senate, after the measure scraped by in a committee Tuesday on an 8 to 7 vote. 

The bill faced a lot of skepticism, and several members of the House Education Committee said they were surprised it passed.  Clarksville Democrat Joe Pitts argued against the proposal, which he sees as part of a wider push to use tax dollars to fund what amount to private schools.

“They’re contracting out the entire operation to a for-profit operator, which is everything—hiring of teachers, maintenance, landscape, soup to nuts.”

Pitts tacked on an amendment to limit the number of charter schools that can contract out operations to three per year statewide.  The bill is being lobbied by Michigan-based National Heritage Academies, and Florida-based Charter Schools USA.

The bill’s main backer in the House, John DeBerry (D-Memphis), argues for-profit contractors can help charter schools, particularly with managing buildings and infrastructure.  DeBerry expressed surprise the bill moved forward, afterward saying “I was ready for it to die” when he brought it up for a vote.

 

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