Tennessee’s Public Charter School Commission Overturns Five Local Charter School Application Denials

At this year’s annual charter school appeals hearing, the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission (TPCSC) heard from eight proposed charter schools. State law permits charter authorizers who have been denied by the local authorizer to ask for reconsideration.

Established in 2022, as a means for those appeals to be heard, the commission has the power to overturn local decisions.

In its inaugural year, the charter school commission heard five appeals. They ruled to support the local decision in 3 cases.

This year, appeals came from schools located in Shelby, Davidson, Maury, and Jackson-Madison counties.

In deciding the fate of the proposed applications, the commission closely followed the recommendations of their executive director Tess Stovall, reversing the local decision in five of the eight cases.

Approved schools are:

  • Pathways in Education – Memphis
  • Empower Memphis Career and College Prep
  • American Classical Academy – Jackson-Madison
  • Cornerstone Prep Lester Campus – Memphis
  • Invictus – Nashville

TPCSC upheld the local decision in the case of American Classical Maury, Fairly High School, and Nashville Collegiate Prep High School.

The only close vote came over Nashville Collegiate Prep’s appeal. The school currently operates in Nashville as a K-8 model. Stovall testified that she considers the schools a “valued partner”.

Despite that status, and recognizing parental desire for a continuous pathway to high school, Stovall recommended that Nashville Collegiate Prep High School’s appeal be denied. That recommendation was based on a lack of academic achievement in the school’s current K-8 model.

Stoval told the board, “As an existing partner, this operator should be familiar that we are not aiming to meet district standards, but rather in exceeding them.”

Commission member Eddie Smith reiterated Stovall’s position, “If all we are doing is trading out same for same, we are wasting our time” Smith said, “We want higher performing charter schools. We want to help students achieve things that aren’t possible.”

After citing existing data, Smith went on to add, “I think this one needs to bake a little longer in the box.” He urged the commission to wait until more data was available.

The board discussed granting approval with the caveat of withdrawing that approval during the pre-opening process. Some board members were interested in that alternative based on faith in the school’s leadership.

Nashville Collegiate Prep is managed by Noble Education Initiative and as such, is overseen by former Deputy Commissioner of Education Eve Carney.

After a robust discussion, during which commission members repeatedly voiced a need for evidence of higher academic achievement, the commission voted 5-4 in support of Stovall’s recommendation to deny the school’s appeal.

Voting to approve were:

  • Commissioner Michael A. Carter, Sr
  • Commissioner Thomas Griscom
  • Commissioner Lauren Smith
  • Commissioner Chris Tutor

Voting to deny the school’s appeal were:

  • Commissioner Alan Levine
  • Commissioner Terence Patterson
  • Commissioner Chris Richards
  • Commissioner Eddie Smith
  • Commissioner Jamie Woodson

Throughout the two-day hearings, Stovall and board members expressed concerns over the use of estimated negative fiscal impact as a tactic used by local districts to deny charter applications.

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Board of Education was presented as an example. MNPS used potential negative fiscal impact as a reason for denial with both Invictus and Nashville Collegiate Prep. The district calculated a potential loss based on the projected number of students at the schools against the average funding the district would receive for them. MNPS calculations showed a negative impact of a little more than $1.1 million for each proposed school.

Charter commission staff evaluated historical district data and found no evidence to support that the schools would prevent MNPS from being financially stable.

In her recommendation, Stovall wrote, “The district regularly manages to sustain its operations and financial sustainability despite enrollment fluctuations above and beyond the impact of opening the proposed charter school. Moreover, the information contained within the past three (3) years of audits reinforces the fact that MNPS’ financial position has continued to increase, despite fluctuations in enrollment.”

Those schools whose applications were denied this year are able to restart the process next year. Operators interested in applying must submit a letter of intent to local authorizers no later than December 3, 2023.

Watch the commission meeting here:

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TC Weber is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He writes the blog Dad Gone Wild. Follow TC on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]. He’s the proud parent of two public school children and the spouse of a public school teacher.




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3 Thoughts to “Tennessee’s Public Charter School Commission Overturns Five Local Charter School Application Denials”

  1. Jane Doe

    Classical charter schools teach children to love America and they learn the classics and about the constitution. They are very successful with huge waitlists for openings in many many states ..why do local public schools feel threatened? Healthy competition and parents being allowed a choice on what their children learn shouldn’t be a threat it should be welcome ! Glad 2 of them are approved one is a difference County then this article! 🇺🇸

  2. Tom Richardson

    And maybe some good ‘ol competition will get the local school boards to up their game and quit turning out little mind numbed robots toeing the party line! Isn’t that the point?

  3. Amazing how many people on these commissions love to deny children a good education. They still to the old bs “excuses” for those denials. If ti takes money away from the government schools, because those government schools are not performing, then so be it. Kids need quality education. You can’t do it? Then we’ll find someone who can. Real simple. Progressivism doesn’t work/ Never has, never will.