In the wake of the Great Hearts mess in Nashville, there has been much discussion of a statewide charter authorizer. The Tennessee Charter Schools Association, the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, and the powerful lobbying group StudentsFirst, led by Michelle Rhee, are on the record supporting a statewide authorizer.
The political question has been, however, whether rural Republicans would support such an entity, given that it would supplant local control with an appointed, statewide body. It looks like this split between urban and rural Republicans might be real. Speaker Harwell (R-Nashville), for instance, looks like she would support such a measure. Just within the last few days, however, Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens) has filed a bill (HB 0446) that would change the existing charter appeal law. This could well be taken as a signal that some part of the Republican caucus (or perhaps just Rep. Forgety — there doesn’t yet seem to be a Senate sponsor) would rather just fix the existing law than create a new statewide authorizer. Here’s the pertinent text:
(D) Either the local board of education or the sponsor proposing the charter school application may appeal the final decision of the state board of education within thirty (30) days of its entry to the chancery court in the judicial circuit in which the local board of education is located. The review of the court shall be de novo on the record and shall be undertaken in accordance with the procedures governing common law writs of certiorari.
Does this foreshadow a split in the Republican caucus on this issue? We shall see.