Each year, the Tennessee Charter School Center identifies the legislative challenges and opportunities facing the state’s charter school sector and the students and families it serves. Working closely with schools, operators, teachers, parents, students and other community advocates, the Center is committed to making sure their voices are clearly heard.
Facilities Funding and Financing
Facility funding and financing represents a major challenge for Tennessee’s public charter schools, and is a top legislative priority for the Center. While facility funding is a challenge for all public schools, charter schools find themselves operating at an even greater deficit.
Public charter schools are not given a public school facility and do not receive access to locally allocated capital project dollars, the main source of facility funding for Tennessee public schools. They must seek, pay for, and maintain facilities through their own operating funds, as well as any philanthropic donations, if any, they may receive.
These funding deficits can be large. In the 2015 Metro Nashville municipal budget, which allocated $131 million for capital projects in district schools, only one Nashville charter school received funding of $750,000 for a specialty partnership school.
Funding disparities become particularly impactful on charter schools as each year passes when charter schools fail to receive any capital outlay funds.
Basic Education Program
As the State of Tennessee considers funding challenges that face all public schools, as well as opportunities to strengthen the state’s funding formula, the Center will advocate on behalf of public charter schools, and help ensure that the voices of charter school leaders and families are heard.
A well-funded formula, structured appropriately to ensure equity, is in the best interest of all public school students, including those who attend the state’s public charter schools.
Achievement School District
The state’s Achievement School District (ASD) has made significant contributions to the growth demonstrated in Tennessee’s public education sector in recent years by enabling charter operators to pursue turnarounds in the state’s lowest performing schools.
When the ASD was created, only one in six students in the state’s Priority schools could read and do math on grade level. Less than 4 percent were considered college-ready.
But today, public charter school teachers and school leaders in the ASD—given the power and freedom to make their own decisions—are helping write a new narrative about what’s possible in Priority schools.
ASD students are growing faster in math and science than their peers across the state, and last year, second- and third-year ASD schools achieved the highest possible growth rates. This important turnaround work must be allowed to reach its full potential.