School Choice & Charters

Tennessee Withholds Nashville Funds After Charter Denial

By Sean Cavanagh — September 18, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

UPDATED

The Tennessee Department of Education announced today it will impose a $3.4 million penalty on the Nashville school system for denying a charter school’s application, a local decision that the state says violated the law.

The state’s decision comes as the result of the 81,000-student Metro Nashville school system repeatedly turning away a bid by Great Hearts Academies, an Arizona charter school operator, to open a school on the city’s west side. District officials argued that the school did not take steps to ensure that it would serve a diverse student body.

The stalemate in Tennessee is one of the most visible examples to date of state and local officials feuding over who has the right to approve a charter school in districts. Some charter school supporters argue that local districts are resistant to the independent public schools and disinclined to allow them to open, no matter what their merits. District officials have countered that state-mandated decisions on charters usurp local authority and fail to take into account the financial and academic consequences that new charters have on the regular public school system.

State officials said Tuesday they will withhold “nonclassroom, administrative funding” from the district, a step that they argue will prevent the cuts from affecting the district’s students. The department said it will re-allocate the money to other Tennessee school systems.

“We were all hopeful that Metro Nashville’s school board would obey the law and avoid this situation,” State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said in a statement. “It is our job to enforce state law, and we have no choice but to take this action.”

The department’s press release included statements of support from a pair of top Republican officials, Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who criticized the Nashville school board’s “brazen defiance of state law,” adding: “The rule of law is not optional in Tennessee. Those who break it must be held accountable.”

Last month, before Nashville officials issued their most recent rejection of the Great Hearts application, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appeared to discount the idea of stripping funding from the district. [UPDATE: A spokesman for Haslam said Tuesday that the governor agrees with the state department’s decision to withhold funding, saying the Nashville board’s actions had run afoul of the law.]

Nashville officials expressed disappointment over the penalty. They also quarreled with the state’s depiction of how the loss of funds would affect the district’s schools and students.

While the state said the money would come from the nonclassroom pieces of the state’s Basic Education Program funding formula, district officials countered that no such funds are devoted to administrative costs. The money supports “utilities, student transportation, maintenance, and other things that directly affect” students, the district said in a statement. “None of these items are in any way linked to charter school approval processes.”

“We do not yet have a plan on how we will respond to this disruptive mid-year cut,” the district said. “Our priority will always be to give the best education to our students with the resources we have.”

Nashville school leaders also say there is no evidence they have antipathy toward charters. The district said it has approved four charter applications recently, bringing the total number of charters in the system to 14, with six more scheduled to open after that.

Whether the decision has any impact on the charter school in question remains unclear. Great Hearts Academies said recently that it was ending its bid to open a school in Nashville, saying that the “hostile” actions of the Nashville school board had convinced the charter organization that its fight was a losing one.

The Great Hearts Academies school would have been an “open-enrollment” charter, a model that was only recently allowed by changes in state law. Previously, Tennessee charters were required to meet standards for serving students who were economically disadvantaged, struggling academically, or stuck in poor-performing schools.

Related Tags:

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


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty
Getty