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Woodson-Sponsored Charter School Legislation Headed to Haslam

Press Release from the GOP Caucus of the Tennessee Senate, May 20, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, TN), May 20, 2011 – The State Senate approved major public charter schools legislation on Friday to create an environment that promotes the growth of high quality public charter schools in Tennessee. The bill is sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville) and was one of three education reform measures proposed by Governor Bill Haslam to improve student achievement by giving students the resources and opportunities they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy.

“Public charter schools are a critical tool to improve public education and provide every child in Tennessee the opportunity to receive a great education,” said Speaker Woodson. “This bill creates an environment that promotes the growth of high quality charter schools, allows districts access to innovative tools to address their unique challenges, and gives many more parents the option of sending their child to a school that better suits his or her needs.”

Key provisions of Senate Bill 1523 include:

  • Removes the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state
  • Allows for open enrollment in charter schools (removes eligibility restrictions while maintaining current system that gives preference to certain applicants and provides for a lottery system when applications exceed the number of seats available in the school)
  • Gives preference in the application process to proposed charter schools that demonstrate a capability to support certain high-need populations
  • Provides the Achievement School District with the ability to authorize charter schools within the district
  • Allows for appeal of charter revocation or nonrenewal to State Board of Education except when those decisions are based on the current AYP accountability guidelines for charters (maintains high accountability standards)
  • Removes “automatic repeal” provision so that there is no automatic sunset date on the charter law
  • Allows a local education agency to deny charter school applications if a local education agency demonstrates that opening the school would create a substantial negative fiscal impact that would be contrary to the best interest of their students, district or community.

Recently, Tennessee was awarded $40 million in investments to support new charter schools in Tennessee. The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam and will become effective upon his signature.

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