State takeover of a school is going to be controversial, but some legislators believe Tennessee's Achievement School District isn't worth the headaches. The ASD — which controls 23 chronically low-performers in Nashville and Memphis — is fending off Democrats eager to see its demise.
“People are coming after us left and right on this thing, and it’s two years old,” ASD superintendent Chris Barbic told senators on the Education Committee.
Barbic wants permission to expand who can attend one of his schools, but he says he spent quite a bit of time at the state capitol just making a case for the ASD’s existence.
“There’s 22 bills that have been filed right now to either try to kill this thing or pull it apart," he said. "And this thing hasn’t even gotten out of the Petri dish.”
While the bills are all from the minority party, that may be less about challenging the majority and more about geography — the schools that have been taken over fall almost solely in the districts of Democrats.
There's some overlap in the proposals and the count of 22 includes both House and Senate versions. Here's a rundown:
- A bill sponsored by Sen. Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) and Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) would abolish the ASD at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
- Several bills from Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis), who is vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, attempt to prevent the ASD from opening its doors to out-of-zone students.
- Sen. Harper and Rep. Bill Beck (D-Nashville) want to block ASD schools, which are mostly run by charter organizations, to expand to more grades than the school had prior to takeover.
- This bill would give schools that end up in the bottom five percent of the state a way to avoid state takeover by appointing a new principal and improving value-added test scores.
- A bill from Memphis lawmakers would block the ASD from taking over any more schools there by saying no more than half of the state-controlled schools can come from any one district.