State Charter Authorizer Concerns
1. A Statewide Charter Authorizer (SCA) would increase the reach of state government into local affairs and create additional bureaucracy.
2. Unlike local school boards, the members of an SCA would be appointed, not elected. Therefore, an SCA would not be accountable to the voters of Tennessee–in fact, the appointed bureaucrats in the SCA would not be accountable to you at all.
3. An SCA cannot possibly understand the unique needs of every district in the state. Locally elected school boards can adapt to the unique social and cultural dynamics of their community and pursue more creativity in addressing educational issues which develop.
4. Because local school boards are directly elected, they hold a greater stake in the success of the schools in the district. Therefore, they are more likely to ensure that the charter schools they approve are going to meet the needs of their community.
5. The state of TN has not proven that an SCA is needed:
- The state’s website indicates that TN school boards are already doing an adequate job of selecting and monitoring charter schools:
“Charter schools are public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies that must include parents. In Tennessee, public charter school students are measured against the same academic standards as students in other public schools. Local boards of education ensure that only those charter schools open and remain open that are meeting the needs of their students, district and community. Local boards do this through rigorous authorization processes, ongoing monitoring of the academic and financial performance of charter schools, and, when necessary, through the revocation or non-renewal of charters.”
- The charter schools in Metro Nashville have generally performed better than charter schools in other parts of the state, suggesting that the Metro Nashville Public School Board has done a good job of selecting and monitoring its charter schools. Perhaps the state of TN should ask the MNPS Board to share its charter procedures with other school boards across the state rather than entirely removing the right of these elected boards to choose what is best for their individual communities.
6. Schools authorized by an SCA would take money from the budgets of our local public schools and existing, locally authorized charter schools. The SCA would, therefore, arbitrarily take money from the funds reserved for our districts’ needs.
7. Because of some of the problems that can occur if charter schools are not closely monitored, it seems that the individuals most invested in the success of these schools (i.e., locally elected school boards) should have the final say in which schools should be allowed. Some of these problems are as follows:
- Charter schools tend to exclude/under serve students with disabilities.
- When charter companies decide to call it quits, or are forced to close due to poor performance, they disrupt communities.
- Some charter schools have dramatically restricted curricula, removing art and music classes.
- Charter companies are not accountable to parents and citizens through local elections, so parent voice and control can be diminished.
- Charter schools can increase racial and economic segregation, sifting society and marginalizing social capital.
- Many charter companies do not outperform traditional public schools.
- Vouchers have not been proven to work. Despite built-in screening advantages for private schools, reports on voucher experiments in cities such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C. show these programs have not been successful in consistently raising student academic achievement.
- Vouchers eliminate public accountability. Vouchers channel tax dollars into private schools that do not face state-approved academic standards, do not make budgets public, do not adhere to open meetings and records laws, do not publicly report on student achievement, and do not face the public accountability requirements contained in state and federal laws, including special-education laws.
- Vouchers avert the will of citizens because, while public schools are run by elected school boards, private schools are led by appointed boards/administrators. Vouchers remove the right of voters to make their voices heard in how they want their schools/school boards run.
- Vouchers leave behind many disadvantaged and special needs students because private schools may not accept them or do not offer the special services they need. (Unlike public schools, private schools are not legally required to provide special education services.)
- Vouchers do not truly provide school choice because private schools ultimately choose who they will admit to their institutions. In addition, private schools may, without warning, expel a student who does not meet their expectations.
- Vouchers divert attention, commitment, and dollars from public schools to subsidize private-school tuition for a few students, including many who already attend private schools, creating new costs for taxpayers. A dollar spent on a tuition voucher is a dollar drained from public education.
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