A controversial, closely watched state charter school bill has been signed into law by Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Bredesen signed Monday SB 2133, which greatly expands student eligibility for Tennessee’s charter schools. The bill was almost killed after members of the state House Democratic caucus took a stand against it, but was then resurrected in the wake of a compromise and several changes.
The new law allows school districts with at least 14,000 students to enroll, on a lottery basis, students receiving free and reduced meals. The lottery process prioritizes students who are struggling academically. Caps are set by the law, which limit the number of charter schools in Nashville to 20 and in Tennessee to 90.
The bill was sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville,
Metro Nashville Public Schools currently has three charter schools in operation: LEAD Academy, Smithson-Craighead, and KIPP Academy. Two new charter schools — Smithson-Craighead's middle school and Global Academy — will start serving students this fall.
Once part of the school system, charter schools must meet the same federal and state educational guidelines as other public schools. Charter schools receive local and state funding, but no public funds for building or transportation.