Friday, April 29, 2005

Charter Schools: moving through legislature

This Tennessean's article has a few more details about the Senate Ed hearing on charter schools that took place Wednesday (4/27/05).

Dedrick Briggs, executive director of the Tennessee Charter School Alliance, said the waiver is needed because of the high standard of accountability. If a charter school doesn't make progress for two consecutive years, then the district has the option of shutting it down.

''All we're saying is that if we're under that level of accountability, give us all the autonomy that you can to help us meet that goal, because we are dealing with a challenging student population,'' Briggs said.

So far, Tennessee charter schools seem to be doing well. First-year scores of students attending the schools were higher than similar children who stayed in public school, according to Steven M. Ross, director of the Center for Research and Educational Policy at the University of Memphis.

How many of our regular public schools haven't made progress in two consecutive years? Is anyone shutting them down?

Of course, the TEA spokesman, Jerry Winters, disagrees. Accurately the Tennessean describes him as a representative of teachers and not students or their parents. That TEA mission statement has always bothered me.

"The Tennessee Education Association promotes, advances and protects public education, the education profession, and the rights and interests of its members." (Adopted by the Representative Assembly, 1996)

Senate Bill 2167 is waiting to be heard by the full Senate for a vote and its companion, House Bill 2137, will be discussed Tuesday by the House K-12 Education Subcommittee. 10:30 a.m. Room LP 29. Check that K-12 link for committee member names and links to their contact info. You can also get a copy of the agenda from that same link so you can follow along with the committee.

Attendance at one of these hearings is always an eye opener for me. You should go at least once to see these folks in action and get an understanding of just what they are doing as your representatives. A homechooling parent described their recent visit this way:

"In all, the atmosphere there is just electric, with pols, visitors,
lobbyists etc all over and lots of activity. And it is cheaper than the zoo."

For those of you who can't make it to Nashville many of these hearings are streamed online thanks to Speaker Naifeh (who may be rethinking that decision due to recent events).

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