Metro Nashville Public Schools has received six charter school proposals in the first application round following the state’s last-minute passage of sweeping charter school legislation.
Concepts for schools, which range from single-gender to science-based, are to be introduced to the school board on Tuesday when they could be recommended for approval or disapproval. Currently, the district boasts five charter schools.
“We saw some increase I think as a result of the change in the law but I think we were starting to get some increase anyway,” said Alan Coverstone, the district’s executive director of charter and private schools.
“What we haven’t seen yet is the really experienced applicants, who will be forthcoming,” he said, adding the current applicants all have work to do.
The bill, which initially stalled in committee at the hands of House Democrats, lifted charter school restrictions, opening them up to any student who qualifies for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program. In addition, the new law raised the caps on the number of charter schools allowed in Davidson County to 20.
The state’s approval of the hotly debated bill came after a fierce lobbying effort from Mayor Karl Dean, who made his case to legislators, arguing the existing caps and restrictions made it difficult to recruit reputable national charter organizations to Nashville.
“We cannot be afraid to innovate,” Dean told the House’s K-12 Subcommittee in April. “We need it. I’m asking you as a mayor of a city that’s in this position, give us this tool.”
Coverstone, who vacated a position on the school board to accept a newly created MNPS charter schools position, said Dean didn’t play a role in recruiting any of the six applicants.
“But he’s actively working to try to encourage people to come to Nashville,” Coverstone said.
The district’s history of not supporting charter schools, combined with the short time since the bill’s final approval, prevented MNPS from receiving more applicants, he said.
The six charter school applicants are:
• 21st Century Learning Academy, a middle school for 5th-8th grade students
• Drexel Academy, for K-8th grade students
• Metro Prep, an all-boys school for K-12th grade students
• Nashville School of Science and Technology, a middle school for 5th-8th grade students
• New Vision Academy, an affiliate of Intervention Inc., a middle school for 5th-8th grade students
• Smithson-Craighead High School, which would operate alongside Smithson-Craighead’s elementary and middle schools, which are already in Nashville