Locally elected officials in Davidson County are lining up to oppose a legislative attempt to circumvent the school board’s power to approve specific charter schools.
On the eve of the legislation’s first major committee vote tomorrow, over a dozen officials told reporters Monday the legislation undermines the local school board, unfairly targets Nashville and is unnecessary.
“This legislation is, for lack of a better term, horrid,” said Cheryl Mayes, who chairs the Metro Nashville Public Schools board.
The House Education Committee is scheduled to take up the proposal Tuesday. The measure, favored by Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville, would create an alternative route for charter schools applying to open in Davidson and Shelby County.
Charter operators could apply directly to the State Board of Education, under the legislation. If approved, funding would come from local tax dollars.
The press conference included a large swath of the county’s elected officials, including five of the nine school board members, a handful of Metro Council officials and most local House Democrats.
Nashville-area state representatives attacked the proposal with Rep. Mike Stewart equating the move to “taxation without representation.” Rep. Brenda Gilmore argued the legislation undermines local school boards’ decisions at the same time state lawmakers argue in favor of local control.
The legislation is largely an outgrowth of a spat last year between the state and the MNPS school board after board members repeatedly rejected the charter school application of Great Hearts Academies given concerns about transportation and diversity.
Metro Councilman Steve Glover, a Republican, said he plans to urge the council to pass a resolution voicing opposition to the measure at Tuesday’s Metro Council meeting.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue truly about our children,” said Glover, a Republican. “Charter schools can be a great resource if we have them properly funded, but this is an unfunded mandate.”
Advocates for a state-level authorizer released a statement Monday saying they support lawmakers who stand up for the proposal, including Harwell and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
"While champions of the status quo rally in opposition to change, we will continue to be grateful for political leaders who have the courage to do what’s right for the children of Tennessee," read the statement from the Tennessee Charter Schools Association, Democrats for Education Reform, and reform groups Stand of Children and StudentsFirst.