House Committee Votes To Set Up Charter Authorizer
by Mark Bellinger
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Legislation that would create a special panel to authorize charter school applications has advanced in the House.
Republicans said a statewide charter authorizer was an essential part of education reform. On Tuesday, a House committee voted to set up the authorizer.
The proposal would create a panel to hear appeals from charter school applicants which have been turned down by the local school board.
The panel would get the final word on the creation of charter schools. Tuesday's vote did not sit well with officials with Metro Nashville Public Schools or Nashville Democrats.
"It creates, really, a have/have not situation for public schools in Tennessee," said Democratic Representative Mike Turner. "This panel they have - it could be the death panel for public schools."
The House Education Committee was standing room only as the panel was discussed. The charter authorizer has been backed by Nashville Republican and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell.
She met with Metro School board members and council members Monday night and told them the bill would run Tuesday in the House Education Committee.
Initially, the proposal just targeted Nashville and Memphis. Now it affects public school districts statewide.
The bill passed committee by a comfortable 10-3 margin. Two Representatives did not vote. The measure would set up a panel of nine educators to hear charter applicant appeals.
Three members would be selected by the Governor, three by the Lieutenant Governor, and three by the House Speaker.
"Really, all this does is put in place a process," said Representative Mark White from Memphis. "The way I see it, it's just a process that's going to challenge the LEA's to do the best they can do. If they do their job it never really has to go to the panel."
The proposal goes next to the Government Operations committee in the House. It's in the Education Committee in the Senate.