School Choice & Charters

Rhee Urges Tenn. Governor to Veto Bill on Charter Teachers

By Sean Cavanagh — April 23, 2012 1 min read
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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam must decide whether to make law a proposal that would restrict the number of foreign workers that charter schools in his state can hire. Former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has asked the governor to veto it.

Rhee, whose education advocacy group, Students First, has a chapter in Tennessee and is active on the state’s political scene, told the Republican governor in a letter that the bill would “close the door on driven and talented educators who might otherwise help kids learn to read or become passionate about math and science.”

The state’s Republican-controlled legislature approved a bill this month that would cap the number of non-immigrant foreign workers on H1B or J1 visas that any charter could hire at no more than 3.5 percent of their workforce in any given year. It also forbids the approval of charter schools controlled by “foreign nationals” or those being investigated by the government for “questionable use of non-immigrant foreign worker visa programs.”

Backers of the proposal argue that it will preserve jobs for Tennessee teachers. But critics say will brand Tennessee as a state that is hostile to foreign-born teachers, or foreigners, generally.

Rhee argued that the measure would cut off a potential talent pool for charters in the state.

Charter schools are “models of innovation for all our schools, but they can only do that if they have the staff needed to create strong learning environments,” Rhee wrote. “Let’s not hamstring these public schools in an unfair way that hurts kids.”

[UPDATE (3 p.m.): I’ve posted a link to the letter, above.]

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.