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Tennessee Must Strengthen Education Policies to Meet Growing Demand

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Volunteer State Ranks 22nd on 15th Edition of Charter School Laws Across the States

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
March 17, 2014

Fewer than half of state charter school laws in the United States earn above-average grades according to The Center for Education Reform’s (CER) 15th Edition of Charter School Laws Across the States: Rankings & Scorecard released today, and Tennessee is no exception, earning a grade of “C” with a ranking of 22nd out of 42 states and the District of Columbia.

“Tennessee lawmakers today have an incredible opportunity to help expand educational options to families and students by improving the state’s charter school law to allow for multiple, independent authorizers and repeal restrictions that limit proven providers from investing in the success of Tennessee’s charter schools,” said Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform.

“While it is true the charter school sector in the United States has grown at a steady, linear pace since the first charter school law was passed in 1991, we know the highest charter school and enrollment growth is in jurisdictions with strong charter school laws,” said Alison Consoletti Zgainer, executive vice president of the Center for Education Reform and lead author of the rankings.

“With the length of the average charter school waiting list increasing to nearly 300 students there absolutely needs to be a sense of urgency around creating strong charter school laws that will accelerate the pace of growth to meet demand,” said Kerwin. “Not only are there hundreds of thousands of students on charter school wait lists, but the U.S. Census predicts the largest influx of school-aged children over the next 20 years at over 11 million. Lawmakers must be thinking outside the box to create a portfolio of new educational opportunities to create the predicted 315,000 new seats needed in Tennessee alone to meet this demographic reality.”

“States where parents have options to choose tend to yield higher growth rates in student achievement,” said Kerwin. Tennessee currently ranks 26th in the nation on the Parent Power Index, which measures how parent-friendly a state’s education policies are as a whole when it comes to parents both being able to have a say in their child’s education as well as gathering data about which education option is best for their child.

“As the nation celebrates twenty-plus years of charter schools and choice programs, history suggests state laws need to be modeled after success, not theory,” Kerwin added. “There should be no excuses from elected officials now that we have powerful evidence of what works.”

Click here to see the 15th edition of Charter School Laws Across the States: Rankings & Scorecard.

For more information about the choices and power parents have over their child’s education in Tennessee, visit the Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power Index.