Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has publicly asked members of the state legislature to make Tennessee a friendlier place for public charter schools. The charter school bill is due for a full Senate vote soon.
At a meeting Wednesday of the K-12 subcommittee of the Tennessee House Education Committee, Dean asked lawmakers to support a bill that would allow more students to be eligible for charter schools. The mayor cited lessons he’s learned in visits to New York City, Chicago, New Orleans and Boston, and said Tennessee needs to get “up to speed” with laws being passed in other states.
“I am convinced that having a good charter law in this state, and particularly for my city of Nashville, is just essential,” Dean said. “School choice is key, and charter schools play a major role in that.”
Dean quoted from a March speech given by President Barack Obama, when Obama told members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that states with restrictive charter school laws need to make changes.
“What he said resonated with me as mayor of this city,” Dean said. “We need this, and we need it badly.”
Passing the proposed bill would allow Dean to ask national leaders of successful charter schools to establish programs in this city, and enable those schools to be successful here. Dean named the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) as an example of a successful charter school in Nashville that he’d like to see more of.
Dean said that passing the proposed bill would allow him to ask national leaders of successful charter schools to establish programs in this city, and enable those schools to be successful here. Dean named the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) as an example of a successful charter school in Nashville that he’d like to see more of.
After the committee meeting, Dean acknowledged the controversy charter schools have sparked in areas across the state. He believes the issue is a non-partisan one.
“People get it. I think there’s been sort of a movement on this. This has been controversial in Tennessee for many, many years, but if you look around the country, I think people are recognizing particularly in urban settings that this is really a way to make some fast gains with schools,” Dean said.
“It doesn’t get any clearer, when the President of the United States says it. … [President Obama] is a Democrat, and I know that many Republicans support it, too.”
MNPS currently has three charter schools in operation — LEAD Academy, Smithson-Craighead, and KIPP Academy — with two more due to be opened for the first time 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.
All of Smithson-Craighead’s students, and 94.3 percent of KIPP Academy’s, are considered economically disadvantaged by state Report Card data. State Report Card data on economically disadvantaged students is not available for LEAD.