charter schools

Lee names members of standalone charter authorizer

Republican Gov. Bill Lee has appointed the members of the new state charter school authorizer. The new standalone panel can overturn local school board votes to reject charter school applications.

The members are:

  • Tom Griscom of Hamilton County
  • David Hanson of Davidson County
  • Alan Levine of Washington County
  • Terence Patterson of Shelby County
  • Mary Pierce of Davidson County
  • Christine Richards of Shelby County
  • Derwin Sisnett of Shelby County
  • Eddie Smith of Knox County
  • Wendy Tucker of Williamson County

Griscom is a former editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Smith is a former Republican state representative from Knoxville. Pierce was known as the Nashville school board’s leading charter school advocate before announcing last year she wouldn’t run for re-election. Hanson is a board member of the Beacon Center, Teach For America Nashville, and Valor charter schools.

Under the previous law, the State Board of Education served as the charter authorizer. But it had overturned only three of 21 denials, and supporters of the change hope the new panel will be less deferential to local school boards.

Democratic Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis, who opposed the bill, told rural and suburban colleagues that under the bill “everybody gets a taste of the charter medicine” that has previously been applied to to cities.

School choice update: Champagne on ice?

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a Philips event in Nashville on April 2, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee’s administration has been touting the “momentum” of his school choice agenda so far. His charter school authorizer bill has kept its forward momentum through the committee system, but his voucher-like Education Savings Account, or ESA, proposal was put on ice in the Senate until next week.

Proponents attribute the hiccup to time conflicts as committees do the heavy lifting needed to keep the legislature on track for a timely adjournment. But privately, some acknowledge there is going to have to be a combination of heavy whipping of recalcitrant lawmakers and tweaking of the bill to help it clear House committees and get a favorable floor vote.

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Lee to host Education Secretary DeVos at Nashville roundtable

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is coming to Nashville today to join an education forum with Gov. Bill Lee

The Tennessean reports DeVos will attend a roundtable with educators, families, and local officials at Lead Cameron, a charter school. The governor’s office says the visit will highlight school choice benefits as Lee promotes charter schools and school vouchers through so-called education savings accounts.

Lee’s school voucher proposal cleared the House Education Committee last week.

DeVos in TN speech: ‘I’m just getting started!’

Speaking in Nashville at the National Summit on Education Reform, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rallied education leaders to expand “school choice,” took swipes at teachers unions and Democrats, and put in a good word for her boss’s campaign to overhaul the nation’s tax structure.

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Shelby School Board joins Nashville board in defying state order to give student data to charter schoos

The Shelby County School board voted Tuesday night to defy an order from state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen requiring that student contact information be turned over to charter schools, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

The board’s action means Tennessee’s largest district more than likely will be sued by the state of Tennessee. On Oct. 18, the state sued Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools after its board declined to hand over information to three state-run charter schools.

A spokeswoman for Tennessee’s Department of Education said the state will evaluate its options in the wake of the board’s vote.

“We are disappointed by this decision from the Shelby County Schools Board of Education as we in good faith provided the district with additional time to comply,” said spokeswoman Chandler Hopper.

The vote came after members discussed their legal options with the district’s top lawyer during a closed executive session. At issue: Whether to stick by the board’s earlier resolution to be in solidarity with Nashville’s board, or to turn over the information after giving parents the chance to opt out. (About 7,700 Memphis families met this week’s opt-out deadline set by Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.)

Board member Chris Caldwell offered up an amendment stating that the Memphis board will not comply with Green Dot’s request. The vote was unanimous, with two members absent.

State suing Nashville schools to force turnover of student data, but probably not Memphis schools

While the state Department of Education has filed a lawsuit to force Metro Nashville schools to turn over student information to charter school operators, the Memphis school system has taken a different approach to data release and may avoid a lawsuit, according to Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Leaders of Nashville’s school district have repeatedly defied an order from Tennessee’s Education Commissioner Candice McQueen to share student addresses, phone numbers, and other information with the state’s controversial turnaround district, as required by a new state law. The state filed a lawsuit this week in Davidson County Chancery Court to force release of the information.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Memphis district have spoken out about the rule — but are preparing to comply. The district has given parents until Sunday, Oct. 22 to opt out of sharing their contact information with charter schools.

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Defiant school districts get Democrat’s backing; no penalty (yet)

School systems in Nashville and Memphis ignored the Monday deadline set by state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen for turning over student data to charter school operators while House Democratic Leader Mike Stewart publicly called on the commissioner to back off the demand, saying she’s violating expressed “legislative intent” to protect student privacy.

McQueen had declared the Memphis and Nashville school systems would face consequences if they missed the deadline, but Chalkbeat Tennessee reports there were none – except a “firm reprimand.”  At least for now.

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AG: TN schools must give student data to charters

In a legal opinion, Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office says Tennessee school districts must turn over student information data to charter school operators.

Slatery effectively sides with Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, who requested the opinion in a dispute with Nashville and Memphis school systems.

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School boards in Nashville and Memphis defy state order

Elected school leaders in Memphis and Nashville are digging in their heels against a state order to release public information about their students to state-run charter schools, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Shelby County’s school board agreed Tuesday night to defy the order, a day after the chairwoman of Nashville’s school board sent a letter to Education Commissioner Candice McQueen indicating that her district would do the same.

Meanwhile, McQueen said she would request the state attorney general’s opinion on the matter.

At issue is student directory information, including names, phone numbers, addresses and emails. Charter operators say they have a right to the lists under the state’s new charter school law, but local districts don’t want to share the information so they can retain their students.

…Both boards cite a committee discussion in February when state lawmakers were asking questions about the charter school bill as it made its way through the legislature. Rep. John Forgety of Athens said the information could not be used as a “recruiting tool,” and Chuck Cagle, an attorney for the state’s superintendents group, agreed. No one disputed their statements.

However, the final bill that passed excluded language that prohibits using the information to market to students, even as the law prohibits charter schools from sharing the information with anyone else.

McQueen sides with charter school company in dispute with Shelby County schools

Tennessee’s education commissioner has sided with a charter school operator in its ongoing dispute with the Shelby County Schools system and the state’s Achievement School District over student contact information, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

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