Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday the state is creating a $40 million public-private fund to help spur the creation of charter schools in Tennessee.
Haslam, appearing at Nashville’s LEAD Academy, said he would use $20 million in federal money — including cash Tennessee won last year in the Race to the Top competition — and $20 million in private donations to start the fund. The money will go to launch 40 new startup charter schools, he said.
“Creating an environment to grow and develop high-performing charter schools across the state is an important element to our overall education reform strategy,” Haslam said. “Charter schools offer new opportunities for learning, and if our goal is the best possible education for every student in Tennessee, more students should have the option of a charter school as a learning environment.”
In 2009, the state raised the number of charter schools that may operate in Tennessee from 50 to 90. Haslam is asking the legislature this year to lift the cap altogether. In addition, he wants to open charter schools to all children. The schools now are limited to students who receive federally subsidized lunches.
Another key element in the governor’s education reforms — making it harder for teachers to earn and keep tenure — cleared the House Education Committee Tuesday. It passed the Senate last week.
That measure lengthens probation for new teachers from three years to five years. To qualify for tenure, teachers must score in the top two of five evaluation categories in the two years immediately proceeding eligibility. If teachers then drop into the bottom two categories for two straight years, they lose tenure and return to probation.