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STATEMENT: TCSC Responds to SCS's 2020 Proposed Legislative Agenda

December 5th, 2019


The following statement is issued by Dr. Maya Bugg, CEO, Tennessee Charter School Center, in response to the Shelby County School Board’s 2020 Legislative Agenda: 


“During the December SCS Board of Education business meeting on December 3rd, the Board introduced and approved the draft of its 2020 legislative agenda. The Tennessee Charter School Center is opposed to several of the SCS district’s legislative agenda items.

First and foremost, we are unequivocally opposed to the SCS Board of Education’s call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools until a study can be conducted by Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR). This policy item would deny parents the right to school choice and prevent thousands of students access to a high-quality education in a public charter school. Charter school authorizers are required to create a performance framework to guide evaluation of the public charter schools they authorize. Shelby County has developed such a tool to evaluate how well individual charter schools are performing. As schools are held accountable at the school level, not as an entire sector, this is the appropriate way to ensure charter schools are providing positive learning experiences for students.

Next, we do not agree with the Shelby County Board of Education’s plea to allow the State Board of Education to retain duties as the state’s appellate public charter school authorizer instead of assigning such duties to the Public Charter School Commission. Creating the Public Charter School Commission with the focus of fair evaluation of charter school application appeals frees up the State Board of Education to strictly provide oversight and ensure effective authorizing. Further, the Commission’s focus on these activities allows the Commission to develop expertise on the complex work of charter school appeals and authorization. We believe it is important to allow the new Public Charter School Commission to assume its assigned duties under State law.  

Third, TCSC does not support any changes in the current authorizer fee structure. As it stands, SCS is collecting $1,995,190 in authorizer fees for FY20. While this contribution from charter schools is meant to sustain the work done at the district level to support them, it is true that every dollar that is added to this authorizer fee is a dollar that goes to administration rather than to the work being done in classrooms. Charter schools serve a predominantly economically disadvantaged population. It is vital that resources remain where they matter most -- in the schools. 

Finally, the Shelby County Board of Education is urging the Tennessee General Assembly to provide additional funding for capital improvements to public non-charter schools. As supporters of all public schools, we understand the unique burden of facilities funding. We believe that all students deserve to be educated in high quality facilities. As a point of clarification,  we want to explain the purpose of the existing Charter School Facilities Fund Program not as bonus funding exclusively for charter schools, but rather to fill the gap for public charter schools which currently are not provided facilities funding from local capital outlay funds, as traditional public schools are, nor do charter schools receive public buildings upon approval as traditional public schools do. 

Aside from the above, we do believe that SCS has put forth some legislative policy items that, depending on how they are written into law, could be an improvement to the state’s charter law. Particularly, we strongly agree that a clear and straightforward transition plan for schools scheduled to move out of the ASD must be put into place. It is essential that schools, particularly those that have found successful turnaround and operational strategies, know what their path forward should be. We hope to be a partner as the State and District work together to ensure a successful transition.  Additionally, we feel that allowing the creation of authorizer authority to find ways to address concerns and issues of noncompliance, that are less disruptive than revoking a charter, could represent an improvement to current policy and the ability of authorizers and schools to work collaboratively to ensure students have access to the best possible learning environments. However, we are opposed to authorizers being able to fine schools for noncompliance. 

We look forward to discussing these agenda items further with Shelby County Schools and hope we can work with the school board to come up with solutions that will help to achieve our mutual goal of providing a high quality education to all Shelby County students.”