Speaker Sexton hopes to expand charter schools for homeschoolers, create 'at risk' charter boarding school

Cameron Sexton.jpeg
Posted at 6:46 PM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 20:47:54-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It may just be one bill in the legislature, but HB 1214 as amended, would expand charter schools in Tennessee in two very different ways. The first part of the legislation deals with homeschooled students.

"A hybrid system for parents who are currently homeschooling their children but want more structure to enroll their children in a hybrid system of charters where they’ll be in school 3-4 days a week and the rest of the week by their parent," said Rep. Mark White, a Republican from Memphis, who presented the bill on Speaker Cameron Sexton's behalf in the House Education Administration Committee on Wednesday.

Under the proposal, homeschoolers wouldn't have to pay tuition, because by joining the hybrid charter school, they would essentially become a public school student. So the school district the student would normally be zoned for would have to foot the bill for tuition.

"They would be under the TISA model for the time they’re in school so the charter school would receive state funding," explained Rep. White.

Under Tennessee's new TISA funding model for schools, funding is allocated per student instead of the traditional BEP model that allocates funding per district. Lawmakers were curious how much funding each homeschooler would get.

"So would they receive a full amount of the funding or would they receive a proportionate amount of funding based on the amount of time they spend in that charter?" asked Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Democrat from Memphis.

"I wish you hadn’t asked that. I am not definite," said Rep, White, who promised to follow up with an answer by next week.

The second part of the bill would allow charter schools to also become charter boarding schools, that zero in on a particular type of student.

"Spaces will be for Tennessee students who are considered mainly at risk — now by the definition at risk I mean homeless, foster, runaway, free and reduced lunch, economically disadvantaged, abused, neglected, a lot of the things our DCS has to deal with now," said Rep. White.

Rep. Harold Love Jr, a Democrat from Nashville, asked White who would pay for the boarding school tuition.

"It’s paid for by the public school dollars of the students that go there — the TISA model," replied Rep. White.

While public school districts would have to pay tuition, they will not be expected to pay for room and board. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle wanted to know who would cover those costs.

"I’m thinking about fiscal notes on that — so kind of explain to me the second part of it?" asked Rep. Chris Hurt, a Republican from Halls, Tennessee.

"That will be the challenge going forward," replied White.

White went on to acknowledge that he didn't know the answer to that question either, and suggested rolling his bill a week to get more answers. Instead, the vice chair presiding over the meeting, Rep. William Slater (R-Gallatin) entertained a motion to adjourn so the bill could be discussed at next week's committee meeting.

Another bill, HB 1086, that would allow charter schools to recruit out-of-county students will also be heard during next week's House Education Administration committee meeting.

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