Fitzhugh: State Charter Authorizer ‘Mother of All Unfunded Mandates’

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; April 3, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Republicans pushed through a state charter authorizer after killing an amendment by Leader Fitzhugh that would have set in place financial guardrails to protect local taxpayers from a tax increase.

“This bill, without guardrails, is the mother of all unfunded mandates. It will give a state bureaucracy the power to create an unlimited number of charter schools, which will result in massive tax increases on local governments,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “I offered a common-sense amendment to help protect taxpayers, but the special interests behind this bill override common-sense.”

HB702 by Rep. White (R-Memphis) will create a new state bureaucracy to oversee appeals of charter schools denied by local school boards. In the third substantive change to the bill since it was introduced, the new language limits the panel’s authority to school districts which are designated “priority” districts. During the committee hearing, Leader Fitzhugh noted this would be duplicative and a waste of taxpayer funds. The Achievement School District already has the authority to authorize charters in districts who perform in the bottom five percent of the state.

“This is a bad bill that keeps getting worse as the sponsors wheel and deal behind the scenes to pass something – anything – regardless of whether it will improve the performance of students in our district,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville). “I am deeply disappointed that Commissioner Kevin Huffman worked behind the scenes to kill the amendment that would have protected taxpayers in Davidson County and across Tennessee. The fact that he refused to even meet with local school board members in Nashville shows his level of contempt for Davidson County taxpayers and elected officials.”

The charter authorizer bill passed out of the House Finance Ways & Means subcommittee on a voice vote, and will move on to the full committee next week.