NASHVILLE, Tenn. - State lawmakers passed a controversial bill targeting Nashville and Memphis for charter schools on Tuesday. The state "charter school authorizer" sailed through a House subcommittee. This bill gives charter schools another option. It lets them apply to the state instead of the local school district.
"I know right now you guys have been hearing from a lot of people who have paid a lot of money to be involved in this discussion here in Tennessee," said Metro School Board member Amy Frogge. I implore you to hear parents and those of us who will be directly impacted by this bill."
The committee room was standing room only. Representative Mark White says he's carrying the bill for House Speaker Beth Harwell. It specifically targets Nashville and Memphis. Charter Schools could bypass the school boards and apply to do business in either city by applying with the State Board of Education.
The legislation comes on the heels of the Metro School Board denying an application from Great Hearts Academy out of Phoenix, Arizona several times. The state Department of Education ruled Great Hearts was doing what it was supposed to do and fined the school board more than three million dollars.
Some Republican lawmakers don't like the state intrusion. "To remove the authority that's been vested in them by the state of TN in a legal election and take that authority and put it in the hands of an appointed body is fundamentally wrong." Said Republican Representative John Fogerty from Athens.
Supporters strongly defended the bill. "My goal with legislation is to give every child in the state the opportunity to get the best education he or she is capable of," said Republican Representative Mark White of Memphis.
The bill passed the committee 6-3. It now goes to the full education committee.