House Speaker Beth Harwell’s signature 2013 bill stemming from a controversial charter school rejection the year before is up for a Senate floor vote Monday.
Harwell has eased off the gas substantially this legislative session on the bill which last year was prominent during the legislative session. While the bill passed her chamber 62-30 last year, she has not publicly pressured the Senate to take up her bill this year.
The return of the bill allowing the state to approve charter schools in select counties, including Davidson, comes nearly a year after Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey sidelined Harwell’s key legislation in retribution for the lower chamber shooting down a bill he favored.
A swarm of legal opinions have surfaced since then weighing in on the constitutionality of the measure. So has an ongoing contentious debate largely within Metro Nashville Public Schools about the role the publicly funded, privately run schools should play here.
The bill would allow the state Board of Education to OK charter school applications rejected by local school districts home to any school the state considers as failing. Currently, that would include Davidson, Hamilton, Hardeman, Knox and Shelby counties.
Memphis and Nashville have the bulk of the state’s charter schools, although three are open in Hamilton County and charter applications are expected in Knoxville and Springfield this spring, according to the Tennessee Charter School Center.
Their new report says 14 percent of MNPS students attend a high-quality school. The take-aways on stats, findings and politics behind the Tennessee Charter School Center's latest report in light of the district's new limits on 2014 charter school applicants.
The freshly-minted Tennessee Charter School Center wasted little time naming its new lobbyist — who is no relation to Criminal Appeals Court Judge Jeff Bivens.
“Tennessee is fortunate to have a number of legislators who are willing to stand for high quality public school options,” said Greg Thompson, CEO of the Center. “However, the climate for education reform is still challenging, and we are excited to have Brandy Bivens on board as we work strategically to advance important policies for Tennessee’s students. She brings the leadership and political acumen to our team that will help the Center work collaboratively with our partner organizations, legislators, and stakeholders to advance the educational landscape in our state.”
Bivens joins the Center with a wealth of knowledge and experience about Tennessee’s unique policy environment. Most recently she served as Associate Director for Health Sciences, Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs for the University of Tennessee (UT). Prior to her work at UT, Bivens worked with the Policy Group at Baker Donelson, where she advocated on behalf of Tennessee’s charter schools as a Public Policy Advisor.
“I have always been committed to ensuring that families in Tennessee have access to high-quality public education,” said Bivens. “Charter schools represent an important and ever-growing facet of the public education landscape in Tennessee, and I am excited to work with the Center to continue strengthening educational opportunities for students across the state.”
Apparently, the charters and the MNPS types have been having quiet meetings.
It all started when school board member Amy Frogge bemoaned the big dollars in the so-called school reform movement.
And then Nashville Prep chief Ravi Gupta responded. AND THEN school board member Will Pinkston — who used to be on Nashville Prep's board — responded to that. And then there was a Facebook fight — including an ungrammatical shot by Gupta that Pinkston was in a "drunk rage."