Charter schools bill back in play

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 4:13pm

The bill to provide poor children more access to charter schools is back in play, multiple sources told The City Paper and

A rare unit vote by the House Democratic caucus stalled the bill in the education subcommittee and left many assuming it was dead for this session.

But since it stalled in committee on May 20, pressure has been put on House Democrats to reconsider their position. Mayor Karl Dean’s office has put a full-court press on Democratic leadership in an attempt to revive the bill.

And extra pressure has even come from President Barack Obama’s administration. Education Secretary Arne Duncan singled out Tennessee last week in an interview with the Associated Press. Duncan said states that don’t provide more school choice could be missing out on $100 million or more in federal stimulus funds.

Since that time, Duncan has had multiple conversations with House leadership including caucus chairman Rep. Mike Turner.

Another caucus meeting is scheduled late Wednesday and the charter school bill was one of the items to be discussed.

Caucus sources said last week they took issue with the fact that Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) was the lead sponsor for the legislation.

Turner said he was willing to discuss the legislation with interested parties, but offered a timeline of “next year.” Harwell held out hope the bill could be returned to committee this session. It would take the permission of House Speaker Kent Williams for the education committee to reconvene and consider the bill again.

Williams has said he would give permission for the committee to reconvene.

Dean said last week it was “urgent” that the bill push forward this session and pointed out that 70 percent of Metro Nashville’s public school students would have access to charter schools if it passed. If passed, the legislation would allow children on free or reduced lunch to attend charter schools.

The bill has faced strong opposition from the state teachers’ union, TEA, which has countered the Dean administration’s push with renewed lobbying efforts of its own, according to multiple sources.

4 Comments on this post:

By: martindkennedy on 6/3/09 at 2:45

The mayor deserves credit for his leadership in this effort, as do many others. Though charter schools have broad support the opposition can play very rough.

By: WSPanic on 6/3/09 at 6:25

Mike Turner is a meathead. How on Earth did this guy get to a position of authority so that he could so recklessly derail an education option that parents are desparate to have? Do Democrats really listen to and follow this knucklehead? Really?

By: tv8527 on 6/4/09 at 11:00

You ever heard of the term "yellow dog" ? Both parties have uninformed / uneducated & party loyal voters who only care about the proper letter next to the candidates name.
In M.R.Turners case it was a bunch of yellow dog democrats & union members that put him back in office.

By: WayneJ on 6/4/09 at 12:38

The teachers' union looks very much like the Teamsters before deregulation of the trucking industry. That 1980 cataclysm began the end of Consolidated Freightways, McLean, and other unionized shops and the beginning of non-union operators such as Con-way (i.e., Consolidated minus the Teamsters), Estes, and FedEx Freight among others, once customers found the economies and improvements found in using these newer carriers. I dare say the same thing will happen to the traditional school model when the charter bill passes. Where will that leave the teachers' union? Same as the Teamsters post-1980, with reduced membership and far less clout than in the "good old days."

Deregulation of trucking has left us with only 3 Teamster-represented companies in Nashville and from what one reads in the trade journals two of them (under the same corporate umbrella) are on life support based on activities of the corporate parent.

Charter schools will give Nashville a chance to be that so-called "world class city" that everyone says we are. Status Quo will continue the exodus of Nashvillians from the public schools to local private schools, counties that have charter schools, or (gasp!) counties with such high-quality public schools that they can stand on their own merit, charter schools or not. Bulldoze the Dem opposition and get this bill passed!