If I'm understanding this correctly, it's huge...

Reading Randy's thread entitled "Charter retaliation" prompted me to dig into a question I'd had for months now.

Earlier in the summer, I had spotted a mention at the Tennessee Charter Schools site--and printed it out to research later--concerning who may enroll in a charter school.

The site advised that charter shools may enroll "free or reduced price lunch students in grades K-3, though a charter school cannot enroll more than 25% of their total enrollment from this category."

Huh?

Per the 2011 State Report Card, the Knox County school system serves 46% Economically Disadvantaged students, Hamilton County serves 61%, Davidson County serves 75%, and Memphis City serves 85%.

Now, this mention at the Tennessee Charter Schools site appears to be gone since last May, which is why I don't link it.

However, I did find the exact same mention this afternoon at the Lead Academy site, here (see in their FAQS "Who can attend a charter school?").

In reviewing the Tennessee Charter School Act, the charters and their trade association appear to be relying on instruction at TCA 49-13-106, guiding enrollment of students at newly created charters, which says in part:

(C) In reviewing applications for newly created charter schools, the chartering authority, if an LEA, shall give preference to, and, if the achievement school district, shall exclusively accept, applications that demonstrate the capability to meet the needs of the following groups of students:

(i) Students who are assigned to, or were previously enrolled in, a school identified as a priority school, as defined by the state's accountability system;

(ii) Students who, in the previous school year, failed to test proficient in the subjects of reading/language arts or mathematics in grades three through eight (3-8) on the Tennessee comprehensive assessment program examinations;

(iii) Students who, in the previous school year, failed to test proficient in the subjects of reading/language arts or mathematics on the end of course assessments in grades nine through twelve (9-12); or

(iv) Students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch;

(D) If an application with the focus of serving students from a group or groups set forth in subdivision (b)(1)(C) is approved, then the school shall give preference in enrollment to students from such group or groups. Such school shall include in the annual report under § 49-13-120 the number of students from such group or groups who are attending the school; and

(E) Preference for applications with the focus of serving students from a group or groups set forth in subdivision (b)(1)(C) shall not reduce the score of applications that demonstrate other strengths or focuses.

So...as nearly as I can discern, these charters and their trade association are inferring that because the statute references four groups of students on which they may focus (detailed in items i through iv, above), and because they "shall not reduce the score of applications that demonstrate other strengths or focuses," they are therefore bound NOT to enroll more than 1 in 4 or 25% of students from among those eligible for free or reduced lunch???

Is this also your interpretation of the charters' inferences???

If so, I'm sure you see why it's "huge?!"

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metulj's picture

Huh?

That's the point. Free/reduced lunch == children who are "parasites" or "takers" to borrow Mary Matalin and Mitt Romney's terms.

Bbeanster's picture

Botox Fest

Since you brought up Mary Matalin, she and Bay Buchanan have made a lot of money this week attempting to give this fiasco a pro-Romney spin.
Their faces appear to be frozen -- people pay money to look like that?

(I was so mesmerized by the weirdness, I couldn't even tell you what they were saying)

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

If I'm understanding the amended law correctly, it's a virtual invitation to charters to "skim" the best students from our traditional schools.

(You'll notice at LexisNexis that the amended law goes into effect in January, 2013.)

Min's picture

That was the express intention of the amendment.

To make it possible for charters to cherry pick students, rather than focusing on students who were "at risk", which had been the requirement prior to the amendment.

R. Neal's picture

From your Lead Academy

From your Lead Academy link:

DO CHARTER SCHOOLS TAKE MONEY FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

No. Since charter schools are public schools, when a child leaves for a charter school the money ultimately follows that child. This benefits the public school system by instilling a sense of accountability into the system regarding its services to the student and parents and its fiscal obligations. Fiscally, charter schools have demonstrated efficiency.

Anyway, the law you cite doesn't seem to say anything about 25%. In fact, it seems to imply the opposite, that charter schools who focus on these groups will not have their chances of getting their application approved because of it. The 25% sounds like more propaganda, like the above.

R. Neal's picture

P.S. You should email Huffman

P.S. You should email Huffman and see what he has to say about it. Don't hold your breath waiting for an answer, though.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

I certainly agree that "the law doesn't say anything about 25%," but on what basis, then, is Lead Academy making this assertion (under its FAQs tab, "Who can attend a charter school?"):

Free or reduced price lunch students in grades K-3, though a charter school cannot enroll more than 25% of their total enrollment from this category. The remaining enrollment must come from the above categories.

I note the absolute terms "cannot" and "must" in that sentence???

I didn't mention it in my initial post, but I did read the Charter School Act in its entirety and also read in its entirety at the State Board of Education's site all their rules and regs pertaining to charters.

This question appears to turn solely on what we make of item (E) in the above linked statute, here:

(E) Preference for applications with the focus of serving students from a group or groups set forth in subdivision (b)(1)(C) shall not reduce the score of applications that demonstrate other strengths or focuses.

It's the only spot I see even the most remote reference to any "25%?" What do you make of item E?

R. Neal's picture

As I said earlier, it seems

As I said earlier, it seems to imply the opposite of limiting enrollment of the named groups, i.e. charter schools who focus on these groups will not have their chances of getting their application approved (shall not reduce the score) because of it.

CathyMcCaughan's picture

Once Huffman changes the law

Once Huffman changes the law to bypass school board confirmation of Charters, all the applications will be approved.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

...charter schools who focus on these groups will not have their chances of getting their application approved (shall not reduce the score) because of it.

Oh, okay. So maybe this clause in the statute relates only to how reviewers are to "score" charter applications?

May be, but I'm just not getting from where both the TN Charter Schools Assoication and the Lead Academy schools are asserting that they cannot, under the law, accept more than 25% ED students in newly created charters...

Think I will call Huffman's office.

Meanwhile, came across this Wall Street Journal coverage of the Great Hearts story moments ago:

Jack Harrington, an investment banker living in Nashville, was part of a group of mainly middle-class parents who gathered this year to research bringing charters to their communities. He said hundreds of parents attended meetings because they were "hungry" for alternatives to the local schools.

"We are on such a disastrous path with public education that we need to pursue every opportunity for real improvement," said Mr. Harrington, who sends his children to private school.

Members of the group visited 10 charters across the country and eventually opted for Great Hearts. It has 12 schools, roughly 10% of whose students are low income and 30% are minority.

I'll report back on what I may learn from the DOE.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Using a webcrawler...

...called The Wayback Machine, I was able to find the webpage for the TN Charter School Association that was up last May, but is gone now, asserting that charters can't enroll more than 25% ED students.

1. Get on The Wayback Machine here.

2. Type in the remainder of the URL for the TN Charter Schools Assoc, namely "www (dot) tncharterschools (dot) org."

3. From the calendar that will then appear, click on the May 14, 2011 webcrawl.

4. From the outline of the webpage that will then appear, scroll down to their heading "Start a School" and click on it.

5. From the outline of yet another webpage that will then appear, scroll down to their heading "FAQS" and click on the words "more info."

6. From the list of FAQs, scroll down to "Who Can Attend a Charter School?" and click on that question.

You will then see that the TN Charter School Assoc was previously advising at their site--as Lead Academy continues to advise at their own site--that newly created TN charter schools cannot enroll more than 25% ED students.

I may not yet understand why both sites are/were advising this, but it seems important that they have been.

Especially after discovering that the Department of Education released and posted at their site in May of 2012 their 2011 Annual Report on TN Charter Schools, then took it down, then re-released it and re-posted it in July of 2012 minus the damning resegregation data...I'm a bit suspicious of the DOE's methods.

Something's up.

KC's picture

I'm a bit suspicious of the

I'm a bit suspicious of the DOE's methods.

You mean you think Huffman doesn't actually know anything about education, ran a gimmicky, pseudo-nonprofit, think tank, and is now just a hack for Haslam?

Nah, can't be.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Answered my own question, finally

Well, I did eventually find the answer to my question late last night, and without phoning Huffman's office.

It appears that the statute causing me such confusion, TCA 49-13-106, is the one that led both the TN Charter School Association and Lead Academy schools to assert that charters can't enroll more than 25% Economically Disadvantaged students.

However, that statute has undergone a few amendments in recent years.

Per footnotes appearing within the Code, it was in 2008 that the legislature adopted Public Chapter 1133, which did, indeed, establish within that statute that charters can't enroll more than 25% Economically Disadvantaged students (see Section 1(a)(2)).

Those footnotes also disclose that additional renditions of the statute occurred, including one prompted by adoption of Public Chapter 555 the very next year. It was in 2009 that the statute was amended to eliminate this cap on charters' enrollment of ED students (see Section 3), which is why we couldn't find any mention of a cap in the current text we were scrutinizing.

It's frustrating that The Wayback Machine had a snapshot of the TN Charter Schools Association in May 2011 (and I have in my possession a printout from the site in May 2012) in which the trade association was still promoting this regulation that was eliminated in 2009!

And Lead Academy, which currently operates multiple charters in Nashville, continues to promote the eliminated regulation?!

Whatever. Sorry to have unnecessarily begged your help with this one, but I just wasn't getting it.

KC's picture

but I just wasn't getting

but I just wasn't getting it.

You're not alone. Nashville welcomes you.

michael kaplan's picture

i suppose they're building in

i suppose they're building in "success" to the charter school program, so that when the social scientists study the "outcome" after a year or two, it will really look good. as it has not in some other cities.

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