The Tennessee House will consider creating an entirely new panel for authorizing charter schools at the state level. It’s part of a compromise set to be heard in an education committee Tuesday.
The original bill is a direct response to the repeated rejection of Great Hearts Academies by Metro Schools last year. It gives the state board of education power to OK charter schools and oversee them.
But the state board has concerns about possibly taking on the job of managing privately-run, publicly financed schools. Rep. Mark White says he now hopes to create a completely separate board appointed by the governor and speakers of the House and Senate.
“Now with this panel, this will be something that shows we’re serious about this. We want good charter applications to come to this state, but we’re going to do it right,” said Rep. White.
The state Senator shepherding Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s school voucher bill through the legislature says it doesn’t go nearly far enough. He says he will offer an amendment making many more students eligible to have their private school tuition paid with public money.
With proposed restrictions limiting vouchers to poor students attending struggling schools, Senator Brian Kelsey says just 3.5 percent of Tennessee students would qualify. And only a fraction of those would take the offer.
“After we do all this heavy lifting to work on this bill this year, if we end up with only two-thousandths of one percent of students being helped by it, I will be sorely disappointed,” said Sen. Kelsey.
Kelsey has yet to outline his amendment and says he will discuss it with the governor, who earlier this week said he likes his voucher bill the way it is.