We learned this past week in a committee meeting that Nashville School Board Member Will Pinkston will ask for a policy change to require charter school proposals to list their location in their application. That would add difficulty to the proposal process because it would require a charter operator to secure a location before they even know if their application is approved by the district.
Many charter schools know the area they will open, but have not secured a location because it’s left to the will of an elected body to approve or deny their application. You can’t get financing to lease or buy a facility before your proposal has been approved.
According to a tweet by Nashville Scene reporter Amanda Haggard, Metro Legal said “if MNPS denies a charter based on not having location, that (the) state could give them appeal if they chose to.”
School Board Member Sharon Gentry brought up the same fact in the committee meeting that this requirement could result in the State Board of Education overturning the denial decisions from the district.
The State Board of Education agrees, and says that it’s illegal to require charter applicants to have a specific location in their application.
The State Board of Education’s legal counsel, Elizabeth Taylor, said this past week during a State Board meeting that Tennessee law does not require a charter school to have a facility in place when they apply to open a charter school. The law, TCA 49-13-107, lists all the requirements that a charter application must contain, and a facility is not one of those requirements. “No, an exact brick and mortar address is not required at time of application,” Taylor added.
When asked if a local district denied a charter school application because they did not provide a location, would the state board uphold that?
“That would not be legally permissible as the only reason to deny an application,” said Sara Heyburn, the State Board of Education Executive Director.
The proposal brought forth by Will Pinston passed out of committee on a 5-3 vote. The five members voting to send the proposal out: Will Pinkston, Amy Frogge, Jill Speering, Anna Shepherd, and Christiane Buggs.
With 5 members voting this proposal out of committee, there is a good chance that this legislation will pass and become school board policy.
If members vote for this policy change, they are voting for a policy that is possibly illegal and will end up having charter schools approved at the state level more often because of it.
We know that the Nashville school board disagrees with the state being able to authorize local charter schools. If they pass this policy change, they are giving more power the the State Board of Education to overturn charter appeals.
This policy proposal should be voted down.