House Dems Oppose New State Charter Authorizer Proposal

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; March 5, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Representatives are speaking out against a new statewide charter authorizer moving through the House which threatens to blow a hole in local education budgets and risks weakening high standards for charter schools in our state. The new proposal, which drastically alters a plan which passed through the House Education Subcommittee on February 12, creates an unelected nine member panel appointed by the Governor and the Speakers of the House and Senate.

This new bureaucracy would have complete authority to approve charter schools in local school districts, without input from local elected officials who would be required to come up with the funds to pay for them. Supporters of the legislation have refused lawmakers’ request to put in place a ten percent cap on the portion of a local school budget that could be controlled by this new unelected charter panel.

“Republicans are rushing through a bill which will have a dramatic impact on local taxpayers in Davidson County and across the state,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “This law amounts to nothing more than an unfunded mandate which will blow a hole in local budgets, potentially forcing tax increases to pay for charter schools that weren’t good enough to pass local scrutiny.”

The Davidson County delegation met earlier today with supporters of the bill to address their concerns about this legislation, and the impact it will have on their local government. However, many left the meeting with more questions and concerns than they went in with.

“What they are saying is $70 million is not enough,” noted Metro Councilmember and State Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-50). “We asked, ‘will you at least limit this unelected board’s control to ten percent of our school budget?’ The answer was flat no. Every taxpayer in this county should be extremely alarmed.”

“Apparently, the bill’s backers want more than ten percent of our school budget – that is just incredible,” said Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-60). “Make no mistake about it; if that is the plan, we are in for another tax increase which will hurt the people I was elected to represent – that is something I cannot support.”

Davidson County lawmakers are concerned that this new legislation is part of an overall effort to defund public schools, and put special interest groups in charge of our education system in Tennessee.

“Clearly the charter associations envision a large scale takeover of the Metro School budget,” said Rep. Sherry Jones (D-59). “We don’t need a group of unelected special interest representatives making unchecked decisions that will hurt taxpayers and children in our schools.”

“This new ‘charter panel’ is designed to silence the voice of parents and taxpayers in a local school district,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-52). “Taxpayers will have no recourse to reign in this unelected body if they don’t like how their money is being spent, or if a local government has to raise taxes to accommodate this mandate.”