Nashville needs a moratorium on new charter schools
School Board Member Will Pinkston: "The charter sector’s steroid-like growth is troubling."
On Tuesday the Nashville School Board will discuss whether to call for a moratorium on new charter schools. It’s a conversation that’s long overdue.
Nashville has, or soon will have, a total of 32 taxpayer-funded, privately-run charter schools – including 28 charters approved by the local school board, two charters overseen by the State of Tennessee’s failing Achievement School District, and two charters overseen by the appointed State Board of Education, which is wading into polluted policy waters by stripping elected school boards of local control.
All of these charter schools — even those overseen by the two state agencies — are majority-funded by local taxpayers under Tennessee’s unconstitutional charter law, which funnels public money to private organizations with little accountability.
Put differently: Governor Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell, and the rural-controlled legislature are forcing new charter schools into existence in Nashville, at the behest of national charter special interests and on the backs of local taxpayers.
The reality is: Even if the local school board approves no new charter applications, the size of the charter sector in Nashville could increase by 74 percent by the 2021-22 school year, growing from 10,529 seats today to potentially 18,365 seats as a result of growth in existing charter schools and creation of new charter schools.
Reasonable people believe that’s enough.
Even if the charter sector somehow manages to fill all of those previously approved seats over the next five years, which is doubtful, then the charter sector will educate approximately one-fifth of students in Nashville. Again, that’s enough.
The charter sector’s steroid-like growth is troubling considering that demand for charters is minimal when compared with high-demand options in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Waiting lists for Metro Nashville Public Schools pre-kindergarten programs, magnet schools, and other options are more than seven times longer than waiting lists for charter schools. Despite what charter advocates claim, student and family interest in charters is anemic.
Meanwhile, the growth of charter schools is hurting MNPS, financially, at a time when our school system is universally considered to be underfunded by the State of Tennessee.Nashville needs a moratorium on new charter schools: