Dec 27 2012
04:45 pm

In last week's (Dec 19) Tennessean:

(TN House Speaker Beth) Harwell, whose Green Hills-area district includes many of the parents who sought Phoenix-based Great Hearts’ arrival, said there likely would be two different versions of bills involving charter authorization drafted during the next legislative session. One would allow charter operators to apply directly to the state, perhaps to a panel created solely to review and grant charters instead of Tennessee’s State Board of Education.

She also discussed a separate, more modest proposal that would let local school boards vet charter school applications on the front end, as they currently do, but change the appeals process for denied charters in a fundamental way — giving ultimate authority to the state.


The Texas Board of Education — not a local school board — on Nov. 16 voted unanimously, 15-0, to approve two Great Hearts schools for a predominantly middle- to upper-class area in San Antonio to open next school year.

Texas, where charters date back to 1995, has about 460 charter schools from more than 200 operators. Its state board of education is the main authorizing agency. Tennessee currently has 49 charter schools after the first opened in 2002.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


See also in last week's (Dec 21) Commercial Appeal, State-appointed charter school getting heat in Binghamton."

The principal has never led an inner-city school and earned her education degree only two years ago?

More than half the teachers in the school are in the process of being licensed to teach, but are not yet certified?

A chunk of the school's funding is coming from the community's Christ United Methodist Church and the Binghampton Development Corporation (BDC), led by a member of the same church, appears somehow involved in "the financing of the school?"

One member of the BDC's board, Walter Casey, has announced his resignation over the BDC's association with the school?

Some of the particulars aren't clear to me from this article, but it is clear why superintendent of the statewide Achievement School District, Chris Barbic, describes this most recent parent meeting as "the worst meeting we've had."

Sounds like it was a pretty angry confrontation.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Public charter school located inside church???


Am I reading this correctly? Does this December 25 letter to the editor indicate that the Memphis-area public charter school referenced above is located inside the Christ United Methodist Church???

I have been an educator in Memphis for 18 years. I had the good fortune to meet Lisa Settle and shadow at Cornerstone Preparatory School one day last spring after I had heard what wonderful things were going on inside Christ United Methodist Church-Cornerstone Prep (Dec. 22 article, "Binghamton hot about charter school / Lester parents angry at Cornerstone takeover").

Tamara Shepherd's picture



No, per the website for Cornerstone Prep, it looks like the original "Cornerstone Prep" is located inside the church, but the newer "Cornerstone Prep--Lester Campus," which is the charter school under discussion, is located in the former Lester Elementary public school building.

What's confusing, though, is that the site refers to the opening of the Lester Campus site as an "expansion."

If so, does that mean that the original Cornerstone Prep is also a charter school, not a private school, and that we still have a situation of a public school being housed within a private church?

I think so, but interested to hear whether you read this as I do...

jcgrim's picture

TN education - Headed for Dante's 8th Circle of Hell

"What Great Hearts Doesn't Want You to Know" might be a text the TN lege will find an interesting read before they decide to eliminate local control over their public schools.

If the lege prefers something shorter they might consider this in the interest of protecting taxpayer money from charter charlatans. Don't just take a theoretical look at no-bid charter contracts, look at this long list of fraud:

If financial fraud isn't a concern, look carefully at questionable, rigid, drill & kill charter curriculum and instructional practices. Children with significant disabilities need not apply -equity and inclusion are not profitable. (link...)

Given the lege might eliminate democratic control of OUR schools by anointing Kevin Huffman CEO over OUR children's education, TN schools are open for the bidness of training OUR children for work in a transient, low-paid, low-skilled service workforce. (think: Bangladesh factory working conditions)

That includes teachers trained online or in a 5wk cram course (e.g., Teach for America), whose every move is determined and electronically overseen by management. Teacher churn encouraged.(Rigorous, comprehensive teacher education programs and experienced educators are sooooo 20th century)

The interests of those controlling investment, and those controlling the debate about education, have decoupled from those who perform the work of society, and they are propagating falsehoods in order to extend their control and enrich themselves by taking over the public schools(False Premises: False Promises.Corporate Education Reform and the Hostile Takeover of Public Schools (link...))

Is this the future we want for public education in TN?

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Several interruptions later...

Okay, per this November 2011 story in the Commercial Appeal, Cornerstone Prep is one of only two TN charter schools in the ASD turned over to private operators (as of that date, anyway), as follows:

By fall 2012, Memphis-based Gestalt Community Schools -- which has run the Power Center Academy charter in Hickory Hill since 2008 -- and private Cornerstone Prep in Binghamton will take over two unnamed Memphis city schools, starting with a grade or two and building until the private operators are running the whole school.

The only other example of such a public-private collaboration in Tennessee is Cameron Middle in Nashville, taken over by Lead Public Schools in 2009.

The school referenced by the earlier writer of that letter to the editor as being located "inside Christ United Methodist Church," then, was the original private Cornerstone Prep, founded in 2008.

The newer Cornerstone Prep located in the former Lester Elementary is a public charter school in a public building but managed by this private operator.

As to this Commercial Appeal reporter's understanding that these two public-private collaborations are the "only" two such in TN, that appears doubtful.

In May 2012, we uncovered here at KV the Spectrum Academy in Nashville AND the Bridge Academy in Jackson, both of which are being operated by for-profit EMO Educational Services of America, and neither of which was reflected on that year's State Report Card.

This makes for four charter schools we know are being run by private and/or for-profit operators.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Update: How many states have state-level charter authorizers?

Per today's Commercial Appeal:

Of the 42 states that have charter school laws, 13 and the District of Columbia have some kind of a statewide authorizer. In about half, charter operators can appeal decisions only after applications have been denied locally.

If 13 states have some sort of "statewide authorizer," but "about half" of those may authorize charters "only after applications have been denied locally," my understanding of that quote is that the other half of those states--about 6 or 7--are the only states to allow the charter applicant to by-pass the local school board and instead begin his application process directly at the state level.

Also note in this article:

The charter school association also will introduce bills to clarify how charters are funded and when school buildings must be turned over, but (the) authorization bill will likely draw the most debate.

I dunno about that...I'm pretty curious to know in what instance the TN Charter School Association thinks "school buildings must be turned over?"

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