State Representative John DeBerry (D-Mempis) has filed the first parent trigger bill of the session. DeBerry, who survived his primary challenge thanks to over $112,000 from StudentsFirst, rewrites the current parent trigger laws in his bill (Yes, we already have trigger laws on the books). House Bill 77* lowers the threshold, from 60 percent to 51 percent, for how many signatures the parents must have before the school can be turned over to a charter. The bill is only for eligible public schools that are in the bottom twenty percent of the state in student academic performance. This bill is exactly what StudentsFirst wants to happen in Tennessee. StudentsFirst recently held a screening for the movie “Won’t Back Down” in Nashville. The movie, which is about two women who want to convert their failing inner city school over to a charter school, was attended by many political figures. Huffington Post reported that “Won’t Back Down” set the record for worst opening of a film that released in over 2,500 theaters.
While StudentsFirst wants Tennessee to make it easier to “pull the trigger”, The Nashville City Paper reported that the current law has only “been in play” two times since the law was put on the books in 2002. The first in Memphis in 2007 when a school was turned over to a charter and is currently taking place in Knoxville, where a charter school is trying to take over a school after the charter was denied by the school board. Deberry is trying to change the law that has rarely been used.
Deberry has also filed a resolution to designate January 26 – February 2013 as “School Choice Week” in Tennessee.
*Senator Reginald Tate (D-Mempis) has filed the companion bill, SB483. Senator Tate is the 1st Vice-Chair for the Senate Education Committee.