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Haslam Receptive to For-Profit Charter Operators in Tennessee

Gov. Bill Haslam is open to the idea of letting for-profit companies manage public charter schools in Tennessee.

Currently, charter schools in the state can only contract with non-profit school operators, but a bill working its way through the Tennessee Legislature would remove that restriction.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Haslam said he thinks “the idea has some merit.”

“There are some really good for-profit charter operators,” said the Republican governor. “And if they can come in and do that in an effective way for school systems, they should be considered.”

According to a report from Nashville Public Radio, the legislation is the result of lobbying by National Heritage Academies, a for-profit organization based in Michigan that operates 74 charter schools in nine states.

The proposal, carried in the Senate by Chattanooga Republican Todd Gardenhire, appeared doomed earlier in the session after it failed two separate votes in the upper chamber’s Education Committee. But after tacking on the same language as an amendment to a much larger, more innocuous bill, Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, managed to shepherd it through to the Senate floor.

The House version of the bill, sponsored by Knoxville Republican Harry Brooks, is set to go before the Finance, Ways & Means Committee Wednesday.

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