Tennessee Lawmakers Scale Back Charter School Approval Plan | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Lawmakers Scale Back Charter School Approval Plan

Mar 20, 2019

Tennessee lawmakers advanced a measure Wednesday that would give the state more of a role in approving charter schools, after scaling it back to preserve a role for local schools to give input.

The proposal — part of Gov. Bill Lee's education package — has been getting pushback from both parties.

But the issue isn't how applications to open a charter school are reviewed. It's who gets to do so. 

Right now, local districts review applications for charters, and the State Board of Education handles appeals when charters are rejected.

Lee wants to shift that appeal review responsibility to a new commission. Supporters say that will bring more expertise to reviews.

Skeptics, like Memphis Democrat Antonio Parkinson, worry the commission will be stocked with pro-charter members.

"So, you get a charter! You get a charter! You get a charter!" Parkins said, echoing Oprah. "Everybody gets an opportunity to feel what we've been feeling in Shelby County."

Fears were at their highest when the proposal was first unveiled, because it originally would have given the new commission the power to approve charters unilaterally — with no input from school districts.

But in a bend to critics, that authority was removed. Under the latest plan, charters would have to continue to start at the local district, leaving the commission as the final court of appeal.