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Nashville Policy Restricting Charter Growth

Officials from Metro Nashville Public Schools have announced a controversial new policy that limits where charter school operators can apply to open a new school starting in 2014.  According to the policy, charter growth will be limited to geographic areas with overcrowded schools (schools expected to exceed 120 percent capacity by 2017) or to charter school operators prepared to take over continuously low achieving traditional public schools.

Jesse Register, Metro Schools Director, commented that closing down underused schools is one way of coping with recent budget cuts. Reasoning for the geographical restrictions, however, are not being addressed.

The state’s primary advocacy group is pushing back. The Tennessee Charter School Center argues the district should be embracing the model. The Center released a report highlighting “high quality seats” and found that in Nashville public schools, only 1 in 7 is considered high quality with geographic restrictions. Additionally, 1 in 3 charter seats are considered “high quality”.

The Center also drew from a recent poll in Tennessee that found 72% of respondents said that Metro’s new charter schools should not be restricted to geographical location. Not surprisingly, The Center’s report coincides with CER’s recent findings that 73% of Americans support charter growth.

If 1 in 3 charter seats are considered “high quality”, and the majority of Tennesseans agree that charter schools should not be limited, then why are policymakers restricting these schools? Why can’t charter schools be used to ensure that every student can have access and the option to attend a high quality school in their neighborhood?

This new policy is dramatically limiting parental options in Nashville.  Tennesseans need policies that encourage growth, particularly when there’s a need for high quality schools in certain communities.

To find out how much power Tennessee parents have, visit CER’s Parent Power Index.