Education NewsTracker

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.

Press Releases

Berke: Gov’t Funding Poor-performing TN For-profit School ‘Defies Common Sense’

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; August 31, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — State Sen. Andy Berke is demanding answers on the dismal performance of a for-profit Tennessee school that draws students from all over the state.

“This is a case of government letting down our students and our taxpayers,” Sen. Berke said. “It defies common sense.”

The Tennessee Virtual Academy is owned and operated by K12 Inc., an out-of-state corporation, and its test scores are among the lowest in the state. School districts receive state funding based on enrollment. When a student transfers to the virtual academy, state funding for that student leaves the local district and goes to K12.

A letter was sent to legislative leaders Wednesday demanding accountability.

Sen. Berke has repeatedly voiced concerns over the past two years over a for-profit company siphoning taxpayer dollars to fund their venture in Tennessee public schools.

The most recent state accountability measures show how K12, Inc. is failing students:

  • The Tennessee Virtual Academy scored the lowest possible TVAAS score, which shows whether a student increased or decreased academic growth.
  • Only 11 percent of schools in Tennessee scored in that category, putting them “significantly below expectations,” according to the Department of Education.
  • A value-added index of -25.27, which ranks “near the bottom of the bottom.”
  • Only 16.4 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in math on state TCAP tests.

“I believe every child deserves an excellent education,” Berke said in the letter. “The poor scores on academic achievement show K12 does not fulfill our expectations. Our accountability as lawmakers is to students, parents, and taxpayers in Tennessee, and we must make sure dollars go to work in the classroom.”