The Alternative Education Agenda

As the 2013 legislative session got underway, I reported on the “tricks and gimmicks” education agenda being offered this year.

At the time, I was hopeful a more reasonable agenda would emerge. An agenda embracing the Tennessee Constitution’s requirement (Article XI, Section 12) that the General Assembly provide for and support a system of free public schools.

So far, in spite of much (well-deserved) criticism of the gimmicks posing as serious education policy, no alternative agenda has surfaced.

Tennessee ranks near the bottom in both investment in public education and key indicators of student achievement.  A correlation I suspect is no accident.

Certainly, we must do something to improve those numbers.  And those offering vouchers, performance pay schemes, and other unproven policies should not be faulted for at least making an effort to change the numbers.

However, none of the current agenda items results in a new investment in Tennessee’s public schools.  So, I’m proposing here the outlines of a new education agenda for Tennessee.  A true path forward that if fully implemented will get positive results.

PRE-K — Tennessee should expand its high-quality, voluntary Pre-K program so that it serves the entire at-risk (Free and Reduced Lunch) population of four-year-olds in the state.  We currently serve just under half of that population in a program started under Governor Don Sundquist and rapidly scaled-up under Governor Bredesen.  The program works.  Kids who complete the Pre-K program are far less likely to drop out of high school or encounter the criminal justice system than their counterparts who don’t have access.  The kids start school ready to learn and stay on track.  Some have criticized the program for “fade-out” — but even the most negative findings show that kids who have Pre-K end third grade working at grade level.  That means the kids end third grade on-track.  And teachers will tell you that a child who is on-track at the end of third grade has a far better chance of succeeding in school than a child who starts Kindergarten behind.  That said, a number of other studies (Tulsa, Chicago) indicate the effects last well beyond third grade.  We’re in a state with a shamefully low number of college graduates — we can’t change that unless more students graduate from high school college ready.  And Pre-K is a long-term, proven policy solution that will help Tennessee meet that goal.

We should expand the Pre-K program to serve all at-risk four-year-olds by 2017. 

 

Improve the BEP.  The Basic Education Program (BEP) is Tennessee’s funding formula for public education.  It’s how the General Assembly proposes to provide for that system of free public schools the Constitution requires.  Of course, the legislature had to be forced into creating the BEP by the state Supreme Court back in 1992 because the system of school funding at the time was ruled inequitable and thus, unconstitutional.

To put it simply, the current BEP is broken.  Most systems hire a number of teachers well beyond the number generated by the BEP formula.  Ask any parent and they’ll tell you textbooks aren’t free.  There are fees for lockers, classroom supplies, and other basics necessary to operating a school.  Some of this is the fault of local governments unwilling to raise sufficient revenue to fund schools adequately.  But in other cases, a local government could increase taxes all day and still not generate sufficient additional revenue to fund a truly free system of public schools.  This is the system our General Assembly allows to persist.  And it’s not working — just look at the results.

The BEP should be adjusted to allow for a more accurate funding of the number of teachers needed in local school systems.  It should account for the importance of school nurses and physical education.  It should be adjusted so that the funds sent to districts for teacher salaries more accurately reflect the dollar amounts needed to attract and retain excellent teachers.

Governor Bredesen and then-Senator Jamie Woodson made some progress on improving the BEP in 2008.  This effort, dubbed BEP 2.0, resulted in significantly greater dollars flowing into many districts, especially those with surging at-risk and ELL (English Language Learners) populations.  However, that plan was never fully-implemented.  Starting with BEP 2.0, lawmakers should build a NEW BEP.

Tennessee policy-makers should build and launch a new BEP formula in time for the 2015-16 academic year.

Invest in early career teachers. It is absolutely imperative that early career teachers receive adequate support and assistance so they develop into excellent teachers.  It’s also critical that those teachers are encouraged to stay in the field.  High teacher turnover costs districts (and taxpayers) money and deprives students of the valuable benefits of strong, stable teachers.  One proven method of retaining new teachers that also results in improved student learning is early career mentoring.  Research at the New Teacher Center suggests that placing a trained mentor with a new teacher in the first two years of teaching both improves teacher retention and shows a positive impact on student learning.

Tennessee policy-makers should build a new teacher mentoring program and ensure every new teacher has a trained mentor by the 2016-17 academic year.

Improve teacher compensation. Tennessee’s teachers are among the lowest-paid in the Southeast. Attracting strong employees and keeping them in the profession requires an investment in those employees.  Beyond early career mentoring and support, teachers should expect to be well-compensated for the important work they do.  Tennessee has a new, more rigorous evaluation system.  It also now takes five years and consecutive strong evaluation scores before a teacher can receive tenure.  That is, there’s more accountability and more being expected of Tennessee’s teachers.  Attracting and keeping teachers in this environment requires a strong compensation plan.  Adopting a state teacher pay scale that ensures that the starting pay for Tennessee teachers is no less than $40,000 in any district is a critical first step.  By using compression, like Metro Nashville Public Schools did, the cost for such a move can be lessened.  Make no mistake, it will take a commitment to investing in teachers to make this dollar amount happen – but our students are worth it.  Following the improvement of starting pay, teacher pay increases should be designed in a smarter way.  Changing the step increases from every year to every 3 years, for example, could yield savings to the state on the front end while also ensuring higher overall pay for teachers throughout their careers.  Metro Nashville teachers now reach the highest step in year 15 — but they will also see higher lifetime earnings because of raises given by the district over time.  It’s a win-win for teachers and for those managing budgets.  While the initial cost of raising teacher starting pay to $40,000 may be significant, it’s also a matter of budgeting priority.  Making teachers a priority tells our kids that education matters and that Tennessee is going to do what it takes to attract and keep the best teachers right here.

Tennessee policy-makers should raise the starting pay for all teachers to $40,000 and adjust the pay scale to improve overall compensation by the 2015-16 academic year.

 

These four items can and should form an alternative education policy agenda for Tennessee.  One that is smart, progressive, and moves our state forward.  Putting schools first is not about party or geographic region, it’s about doing what’s best for our communities and our entire state.

 

 

 

 

 

TNEdReport Interviews Rep. Joe Pitts

We had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rep. Joe Pitts for the Tennessee Education Report. He is a member of the House Education Committee and the House Education Subcommittee. He is a vocal voice in both committees. We thank him for taking the time to answer our questions.

Let’s start with Vouchers:

What impact will vouchers have on local school districts in terms of budget and tax burden?

A:  Vouchers will have an immediate impact on local government’s budgets and the potential impact on local property tax is significant.  The voucher will further dilute public education funding currently going to the local school district which has an extensive infrastructure – buildings, supervisory staff, transportation, etc. that supports ALL students residing in their jurisdiction.  It is a delicate balance of funds that can be turned upside down if a sudden shift in funding policy, like vouchers, is made.

Do you believe that even if a limited voucher plan passes, the ultimate goal is statewide vouchers with broad qualifications? 

A:  If the past is prologue to the future, then one only need to look at the Charter school authorization passed many years ago by the General Assembly.  The original concept was to address at-risk students in schools within specific geographic boundaries, and we even had a limit on the number of charter schools within those communities. Now, despite evidence to the contrary, Charter schools are available statewide for every student regardless of academic need.  While Charter schools certainly have their place, given the right circumstances, it should be a tool at the LEA’s disposal.

An amendment recently passed to make private schools provide school lunches to those who come to the school via vouchers. Does that help your concern about students choosing free lunch or a private school?

A:  Requiring a school participating in the voucher program to offer a school lunch program makes a flawed proposal less objectionable but still not one I can support.  We don’t need a voucher program for at-risk students in failing schools.  Currently if a student is in a failing school, the parents can raise their hand and request their student go to another, non-failing school, in the same district without sacrificing basic human needs like breakfast and lunch, and transportation, and special needs students get access to the services they need.

Why do you think the GOP is focused on vouchers/charters instead of fully-funding BEP 2.0?

A:  Take a look around the country.  Vouchers seem to be the “cause de jour.”  It appears our education system is the last bastion of public funded services that haven’t been co-opted by the for-profit sector; sadly, not anymore.

Finally, do you think there will be transition problems when taking a child out of a public school and placing them in a private school? Do you think the child may fall behind from the start?

A:  When the child moves from one public school to another public school, or in this case, a private school, it will present some challenges.  Children are resilient though, but I am concerned about the moving back and forth between and among systems since not all private school curriculum lines up with the public school system.

Let’s more on to charters.

Do you believe the recent charter authorizer bill is taking away local control from local education boards?

A:  Yes.  Sadly, as amended, the bill would establish a non-elected group of people appointed by both Speakers and the Governor, to decide how and how much local tax money could be obligated for a state authorized charter school. That’s like the state deciding how big your police force should be and sending you the bill. This is just plain wrong.

Are you supportive of charter schools that get local approval or would you rather limit how many charter schools can open in the state?

A:  I do believe charter schools are a good option for LEA’s who need to try something different for students with specific academic needs.  Being a member of a local school board is a difficult task.  You are required and responsible for the academic achievement of all students in your district but have no say in the funding allocated by any of the funding entities.  I am not a fan of establishing limits on schools if the LEA has control of the authorization.

General Education Questions

If you were the commissioner of education, what would be the first thing you would do to improve public education in Tennessee?

A:  Three things simultaneously:  I would implore the Governor to make it our policy that no new changes would be sought or implemented for two years or until we can sort out the changes enacted in the last two years.

Next I would meet with the school directors and school boards, individually, of every district with a failing school and let them know we are going to become partners.  Instead of a shotgun marriage, it would be a partnership based on putting our resources where are mouths are and helping the failing schools first and immediately.  Students struggling in schools are very often victims of their home environment.  I would deploy an intervention team consisting of master level social workers, health professionals and academic coaches to these schools immediately to provide intensive work and support.

Lastly, I would work with the Charter schools to create a bold new platform for turning around these schools in our districts not meeting expectations.  We need to look beyond the numbers and think about year round charter schools, extended hours, or other non-traditional means to address the needs of the students and their families.  A charter school that mirrors a traditional public school hardly seems worth the effort.

I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of our LEA’s are performing at a high level, given the meager resources we allocate to them, and are open to our help, be it public or private, to give our students the best education experience possible.

Certain reform groups like Democrats for Education Reform and StudentsFirst have very specific policy agendas for reforming education. Some of the typical policies associated with these groups include vouchers, charter schools, pay-for-performance, and ending seniority rules.

What’s the counter-argument?  What are the marquee policies Democrats embrace?  If there aren’t a set of marquee proposals everyone is on board with, why not?  What’s being done to get the Democrats on a united front, to have a set of counter proposals instead of just playing defense?

A:  The reform movement initiatives, added to the self-inflicted policy crush imposed on LEA’s over the past three years, is contributing nothing to the public discourse about improving student performance.  If you think about it, we made significant changes to public policy in education in 2010 as a part of our First to the Top agenda proposed by Gov Bredesen – a Democrat, followed by nightmarish changes to the teachers’ environment in 2011 by eliminating collective bargaining, tenure, and removing TEA from their seat at the table, all in the name of “reform.”

On top of all that we approved virtual schools, unlimited charter schools, put undue pressure on teachers and principals by adopting an assessment tool that is unnecessarily bureaucratic, adopted the Common Core, and are preparing to implement a new assessment called PARRC.  Now, we are attacking our teacher preparation programs by looking at putting artificial thresholds on ACT and SAT scores for students who wish to go through their respective College of Education.  I’ve said it before; we are giving our education system whiplash with these rapid-fire changes and creating massive confusion.  Who can blame more seasoned teachers from deciding to retire instead of continuing in a system that does not appreciate their significant achievement and experience in the classroom and will subject them to the latest reform experiment?

Perhaps the corporate robber barons of the reform movement need to be asked to leave the room and let the education professionals do their jobs.  I have complete faith in our school districts across our state if we can offer our help instead of the cram down policies that have little to no basis in fact or success.

 

Andy, John, and I want to thank Rep. Pitts for his time. Please follow us on twitter @TNEdReport and like us on Facebook.


 

 

 

Rep. Pitts fires back at out of state speaker

Today, the California based Parent Revolution sent Ryan Donohue to Nashville, TN to speak in favor of a parent trigger bill. For an out of state interest, Mr. Donohue makes some broad statements about our public schools here in Tennessee. Please watch what Representative Joe Pitts had to say about that.

 

 

Study Finds Perfomance Pay Does Not Affect Teacher Motivation

A new study released this month in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis found that pay-for-performance programs do not affect teacher motivation. The article, “Incentive Pay Programs Do Not Affect Teacher Motivation or Reported Practices: Results From Three Randomized Studies,” looked at three schools that were testing pay-for-performance programs. Metro Nashville Public Schools took part in this study. The study was conducted with five researchers from the RAND Corporation and professors from University of Southern California and Vanderbilt University.

The abstract of the paper lays out the major findings of this project:

“This study drew on teacher survey responses from randomized experiments exploring three different pay-for-performance programs to examine the extent to which these programs motivated teachers to improve student achievement and the impact of such programs on teachers’ instruction, number of hours worked, job stress, and collegiality. Results showed that most teachers did not report their program as motivating. Moreover, the survey responses suggest that none of the three programs changed teachers’ instruction, increased their number of hours worked or job stress, or damaged their collegiality.” (emphasis mine)

When reading the article, the authors do a great job of explaining the three main rationales behind pay-for-performance.

  1. Performance pay will improve student achievement by motivating teachers to improve or innovate their teaching practices.
  2. Performance pay will improve student learning by changing the work environment of teachers.
  3. Changes the supply of teaching candidates and retain high performing teachers.

The research took place at three different schools systems.

  1. Project on Incentives in Teaching (POINT) – Metro Nashville Public Schools
  2. Pilot Project on Tea Incentives (PPTI)- Round Rock Independent School District- Texas
  3. School-Wide Performance Bonus Program (SPBP) New York City Public Schools

The researchers wanted to answer two research questions:

  1. Did teachers find these three incentive pay programs to be motivating?
  2. In response to the implementation of these programs, did teachers report changes in their practices or their working conditions?

 

Results

-The majority of POINT and SPBP teachers agreed that rewarding teachers based on student test scores were problematic because those scores did not “capture important aspects of teaching performance.”

-Half of POINT and PPTI teachers said that they believed teachers were limited on what they could do because family environment played a larger role in student achievement.

-A little over 40% of POINT teachers and 20% of PTTI teachers reported that the chance of a bonus would energize them to improve their teaching.

-“In addition, the majority of incentive eligible teacehrs in all three programs reported that their programs had no effect of teaching, 85% POINT, 78% in PTTI, and 90% SPBP.”

We see that these pay-for-performance programs won’t change how teachers teach or even motivate these teachers to change their teaching styles. The majority of teachers who were participating in this program thought standardized test scores were a bad way to measure the bonus and half of the teachers believed home environment played a bigger role than teachers. If teachers don’t agree with the measurement, they won’t agree with the program.

The authors believe that the way pay-for-performance is designed right now is not the best.

“The lack of program impact on teacher’s practices suggest that more careful thinking about the logic model of incentive pay programs is necessary.”

The authors suggest that based on this study and others with weak effects, that policy makers should be looking at other ideas of reform.

If bonus-based policy is pursued, policymakers need to recognize this lack of evidence and take steps to monitor program implementation and evaluate program impact on targeted outcomes.

We know that some people are trying to bring pay-for-performance to Tennessee. Will this latest research slow them down? Doubtful, but at least we can show these people the research and open their eyes to some programs behind pay-for-performance.

 


 

 

 

Voucher Debate Heats Up With 800k Ad Buy.

The voucher debate now looks like campaign season with a huge advertising purchase by the American Federation for Children, a DC based education group that promotes vouchers. The Tennessee Journal (not available online) first reported on Friday that the Federation was buying ad spaces.

The Tennessee Federation for Children has been running cable TV ads in Tipton and Rutherford counties, declaring that Reps. Debra Moody (R-Covington) and Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro), both members
of the Education Subcommittee, can make a difference on the issue. The ads do not mention a specific bill.

This weekend, the federation is adding cable and digital ads in the districts of Reps. Mary Littleton (R-Dickson), Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), and Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville). Williams is on the Education Committee.

By Friday afternoon, the Associated Press reported an 800k ad buy the group.

An official familiar with the plans tells The Associated Press that the state chapter of the American Federation for Children is spending $800,000 on broadcast television, cable and radio advertising – a vast amount for political advertising or issue advocacy in the state.

Tennessean Reporter Joey Garrison has heard pro vouchers ads since January on 92Q, a radio station located in Nashville.

This isn’t the first time that the American Federation for Children has thrown thousands of dollars into Tennessee. The group spent almost $36,000 to help reelect Representative John Deberry during the last campaign season. We knew this was coming once the Federation hired Chip Saltsman to promote school vouchers in Tennessee. Saltsman is the former chief of staff for US Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), former chair of the TNGOP, and served as campaign manger for Huckabee’s 2008 presidential run.

The Federation isn’t the only group that is running TV ads. Again from The Tennessee Journal:

Meanwhile, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, formerly the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, has been airing a TV ad on broadcast stations in Nashville and Knoxville promoting “scholarships and choice for K-12 students.” It also doesn’t mention a particular bill.

This comes at a time when some legislators (specifically Sen. Brian Kelsey) want to see a bigger voucher bill than what has been proposed by Gov. Haslam. The Tennessee Education Report will keep you update on any changes to the current voucher bill.

Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

Why are Teachers So Unhappy?

The results of the Survey of the American Teacher for 2012 are out and guess what?  Teachers aren’t very happy.  Teacher job satisfaction is at an all-time low and has dropped 23 points over the past five years, including a 5-point drop between 2011 and 2012.

Guess what happens to people who aren’t very satisfied with their work?  1) They don’t do it very well and 2) They end up leaving that job and finding something more satisfying.

But why? What might be making teachers so dissatisfied?

Well, the value-proposition for teachers is not a great one, for starters.  Pay is not great and support is not great and so teachers don’t feel good about their relative value.

Specific to Tennessee, a number of “reforms” have taken shape in recent years that no doubt contribute to the unhappiness of the Tennessee teacher.

First, there was the successful effort to end collective bargaining in Tennessee.  This in spite of the fact that no evidence was shown that this would improve student outcomes.  Collective bargaining in Tennessee was mostly about giving teachers a seat at the table when budgets and salaries and resources were discussed.  Rarely did teachers strike and they certainly never held Boards hostage for huge pay increases.  In fact, many local teacher’s associations bargained for textbooks and other resources for students in place of raises for the teachers.  One middle Tennessee district’s teachers offered to forego a raise for the length of a 3-year contract in exchange for keeping the health insurance match intact.  Instead, the teachers saw their portion of health insurance increase and have so far gone without a local raise for six years.  Now, with no seat at the table at all, teachers across Tennessee have even less input into district operations and resources.  And it’s not like Tennessee’s state or local governments are lavishing high pay and impressive resources on teachers.

The same year that collective bargaining ended for Tennessee teachers, the state implemented a new evaluation system.  Policymakers seemed to think it was more important to get the evaluations in place than to get them right.  And there have been changes in the first two years and more changes coming.  Imagine being told by your boss that there are certain standards you have to meet.  Then being told that all of that will now change.  And then change again next year and the year after that.  How secure would you feel about your job?  That’s what Tennessee teachers are facing.

This year, instead of focusing on boosting teacher pay or increasing support through mentoring or coaching programs or adding more resources to schools, legislators are focused on an unproven (and in the case of one Vanderbilt study — proven NOT to work) performance pay schemes.

And the Governor is focused on adding an even less proven and likely expensive voucher scheme to the mix.

This is a state that truly took a step forward with the BEP back in 1992.  Then stopped fully-funding it when it got too expensive about six years later.  Then, Pre-K was expanded.  And the expansion has stopped because finding the money became too difficult.  And possibly because it became trendy to suggest that we could improve our schools without making new investments in the people in them.  Four classes of 4-year-olds have become kindergarteners since the last expansion of Pre-K.  This in a state with one of the lowest rates of college degree attainment.  That’s four years worth of students who are significantly less likely to graduate from high school.  And for those who do, they are far less ready for college than they would have been if they had enjoyed access to the high-quality Pre-K program Tennessee offers a fraction of its families.

The BEP was reformed as BEP 2.0 around 2007.  That reform, too, proved too expensive.  Many districts around our state would have seen significant increases had the new BEP been fully-funded these last few years.  Instead, budget challenges (and unwillingness to raise revenue) at the local level have meant stagnation in teacher pay and a lack of resources for students.

Tennessee’s education policy history is fraught with examples like these.  Well-meaning reforms and investments thwarted when the going gets tough and finding money for schools gets too difficult.

And now, we’re asking more from our teachers than ever before with less pay, no seat at the table, and few resources.  Is it any wonder they are dissatisfied?

 

 

 

 

The Life of an Adjective or The Many Faces of Great Hearts

Following yesterday’s House Education Subcommittee meeting covering HB 0702/SB 0830, which creates a state-level charter school authorizer, most news outlets related this particular piece of legislation to the rejected application of Great Hearts Academies in their desire to open five charter schools in Nashville.  We did too.  It got me thinking about the nomenclature, having referred to the Great Hearts story more than once myself.  Without further ado, a working list (the first two are me):

There’s a dissertation here somewhere, I’m sure of it.

State Charter School Authorizer Bill Filed

It’s here.  As many (including myself) have predicted in the wake of the Great Hearts fallout in Nashville, Tennessee Republicans have filed legislation to give the state Board of Education the power to authorize (i.e., create) charter schools in Tennessee.  An amendment that rewrites HB 0702/SB 0830, heretofore an innocuous bill that increased the time to appeal an adverse charter decision from 10 days to 20 days, will be introduced tomorrow.  This caption bill has now been replaced by a bill that does quite a bit more.

The full text of the amendment can be found here.  The pertinent parts are reproduced and discussed below.

(1) The state Board of Education can now directly grant charter schools.

SECTION 1.  Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-13-104, is amended by deleting subdivision (4) in its entirety and substituting instead:

(4) “Chartering authority” means:

(A) The local board of education or the achievement school district as defined in § 49-1-614 that approves, renews or decides to to revoke a public charter school application or agreement; or

(B) The state board of education, if the state board approves:

(i) A charter school under § 49-13-141 when an LEA is the sponsor of a charter school; or

(ii) A charter school directly under § 49-13-109.

(2) There is no appeal of the State Board’s decision, if application is made directly to the State Board in the first instance.

SECTION 4.  Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-13-110(b), is amended by deleting the punctuation “.” at the end of the second sentence and substituting instead the following language:

; provided, that if the chartering authority is the state board of education, then no appeal may be made of the state board’s decision to deny a petition to amend the charter

(3) A charter submitting a renewal application can apply either to the LEA that originally authorized it OR to the State Board.  If the application is made to the state Board, there is no appeal.

SECTION 8.  Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-13-121(b), is amended by designating the existing language as subdivision (1) and by adding the following language as new subdivision (2):

(2) If the state board of education is the chartering authority of a charter school, the school may submit its renewal application to either the LEA or the state board.  If the school submits its renewal application to the state board, then the decision of the state board on the application is final and may not be appealed.

(4) Charters denied renewal or fighting revocation have ten days to appeal the decision to the state Board, except in certain cases.

SECTION 10.  Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-13-122(c), is amended by deleting the subsection in its entirety and by substituting instead the following:

(c)

(1) If the chartering authority is an LEA, a decision by the LEA not to renew or revoke a charter agreement may be appealed to the state board of education within ten (10) days of the decision, except for revocations or failures to renew based on the violations specified in subdivision (a)(2).  Appeals from revocations or decisions not to renew a charter agreement shall be in accordance with § 49-13-108.

(2) If the chartering authority is not an LEA, a decision by the chartering authority not to renew or revoke a charter agreement is final and may not be appealed.

(5)  This is the big one: This only applies to Nashville (and maybe Memphis*).

SECTION 11.  Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 13, is amended by adding the following language as a new section:

49-13-109.

(a) If an LEA is located in a county having a population of more than six hundred thousand (600,000) according to the 2010 federal census or any subsequent federal census and if there have been two (2) or more denials of charter school applications remanded to the LEA by the state board of education with instructions for approval pursuant to § 49-13-108, then a charter school sponsor may apply directly to the state board for approval, and, if approved, the state board shall serve as the chartering authority.  The state board’s decision to approve or deny an application under this subsection shall be final and not subject to appeal.

(b) The department of education shall assist the state board with general oversight of any charter school authorized by the state board, including assisting with monitoring compliance with § 49-13-111 and the school’s adherence to the charter agreement.

(c) For accountability purposes under § 49-1-602, except for schools authorized under § 49-13-141, the performance of a charter school authorized by the state board shall not be attributable to the LEA.

(d) Funding for charter schools authorized by the state board shall be in accordance with § 49-13-112, except that the LEA in which the charter school operates shall pay to the department one hundred percent (100%) of the per student share of local funding and any federal funding in the custody of the LEA that is due to the charter school.  The department shall withhold from the LEA the per student share of state funding that is due to the charter school as well as any federal funding in the custody of the department that is due to the charter school.  The department shall then allocate and disburse these funds to the charter school in accordance with procedures developed by the department.

(e) The department shall determine the amount of the state BEP non-classroom component for capital outlay to be distributed to a charter school authorized by the state board according to § 49-13-112(c).  The LEA shall pay to the department the required local match under the BEP for capital outlay as a non-classroom component for distribution to the charter school.

(f) A charter school authorized by the state board may contract with the LEA in which the school operate for school support services or student support services, including, but not limited to, food services and transportation.

A few things to note:

  • This is the political compromise I alluded to before.  There was a potential for a split in the Tennessee Republican Party between rural and urban Republicans, especially over an issue like local control.  This legislation is crafted so that rural Republicans can vote for it, without worrying that it will affect their districts.  Again, most rural Republicans (and urban ones, for that matter), have no problem “putting Nashville (or Memphis) in its place,” when they feel it’s warranted.
  • There’s a bit of a hidden hammer: While Nashville (and Memphis?) are the only places that currently qualify, other large cities (Knoxville, Chattanooga) could potentially qualify if they establish themselves as non-compliant when it comes to authorizing charter schools.  All it takes is the requisite population, and two charter school denials that are overturned by the State Board, and you qualify for state authorization in your city.  (Note: Knox County only stands at about 440,000 residents, and Hamilton County at 340,000 so there’s quite a ways to go for both of them to qualify.  This is pretty squarely aimed at Nashville, but there’s nothing to say the General Assembly couldn’t drop the population threshold either this year or in coming years).  Either way, having one of the qualifications for state chartering authority be that an LEA has twice denied schools, but been overturned by the state, is a none-too-subtle reminder not to deny applications lightly, or at all.
  • This might actually be a better financial deal for charter schools.  Under this legislation, a charter school authorized by the state would get the full state, local, and federal share of per-pupil dollars, plus a “local match” from the LEA for capital outlay.  The latter portion, especially, may be a change from how things currently work when charters are authorized by an LEA.
  • The performance of state-authorized charters will not count for or against the LEA.  This one’s pretty straightforward, and is likely to make it into the final legislation, on pure fairness grounds.
  • There are a fair number of incentives for new charters to go the state route.  Including the possible funding advantage discussed above, state-authorized charters would have a much smaller bureaucracy to contend with, and likely a set of administrators more ideologically inclined to support charter schooling.  The fact that this legislation permits existing charters seeking renewal to switch over to state authorization further confirms that the state appears to be actively seeking to charter schools, not just as a fallback for an inefficient or contentious local process.

* I can’t say for sure that this applies to Memphis, because I don’t know if MCS/SCS has had two charter denials go up on appeal and get reversed.  Memphis certainly qualifies in terms of population.