Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today held a ceremonial signing of his charter schools bill, HB 1989/SB 1523 at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Memphis, legislation lifting the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state and opening enrollment to more students.
The changes will make charter schools an option for more districts that seek to take advantage of this innovative tool and for more parents who seek educational options for their children. The initiative is part of his first legislative package that focused on continuing the state's progress in education reform and ultimately geared toward Haslam's first priority: making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.
"Charter schools are a critical part of our mission to provide every child in Tennessee the opportunity to receive a great education, and with the national spotlight on the state's education reform efforts, this is an important step forward as we continue to focus on growing and attracting high quality jobs to Tennessee," Haslam said.
Main provisions in the charter schools legislation include:
* Removing the 90-school cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Tennessee;
* Removing the existing enrollment restrictions while maintaining the current system that gives preference to applicants who fall under the school's focus area;
* Allowing the state Achievement School District to authorize charter schools within the district's scope;
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) sponsored the legislation, which passed both houses with bipartisan support.
As Haslam builds on momentum from the legislative session that includes in addition to the charter schools legislation, tenure reform and the ability for students to use lottery scholarships for summer school, he will join Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman in traveling the state over the coming months to talk with educators and parents to continue focusing on what has the most impact on children in our classrooms.
To complement his efforts in improving education and building a skilled workforce, he will also travel with Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty to continue focusing on creating and growing high-paying jobs by working with existing in-state businesses and recruiting new companies into Tennessee.