Gov. Bill Lee Calls For Overhauling Charter School Approval Process | Nashville Public Radio

Gov. Bill Lee Calls For Overhauling Charter School Approval Process

Mar 4, 2019

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee  says he wants to make it easier for the state to establish charter schools.

He announced the plan Monday night during his State of the State address. It would allow a sponsor to go directly to a state-run authorizer for approval, instead of a local school district. 

Tennessee currently has about 115 charter schools, according to the state's Department of Education. They started springing up after the state passed a law in 2002 to officially legalize charter school creation in the state. With this law, local school boards were able to approve or deny charters. 

But over time, the state progressively got rid of the cap on the number of charters districts could have. It also loosened regulations, allowing the state-run Achievement School District and the State Board of Education to approve certain charter requests. 

Under current law, if a local education authority denies a charter application, the State Board of Education can approve it under an appeal.

Lee's proposal goes further to create more charters by creating an independent state authorizer. 

"I believe highly accountable public charter schools are a great model for expanding choice without sacrificing quality, and I’ve seen firsthand how they can dramatically impact the life and trajectory of a student," Lee said during his address. 

This proposal would allow charter sponsors to go directly to the state to have their applications approved. 

"Students have different needs and abilities, and our education system should mirror that diversity as best as possible," said Lee. 

The governor is also showing his support for charters by doubling the amount of grant money available for public charter school facility funding. 

In 2017, former Gov. Bill Haslam passed the "High Quality Charter Schools Act of 2017," which created a fund of $6 million to provide grants to charter schools to improve their facilities. Lee proposed increasing that to $12 million for the next fiscal year.