Measuring Up

 



Tennessee

TOTAL SCORE:
112 out of 228

Rank: 35 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  2002 Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  71 Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  15,533 Tennessee made some modifications to its charter school law in 2013. While these changes are steps in the right direction, they were not significant enough to affect Tennessee’s score and ranking. Tennessee’s score increased from 109 points in 2013 to 112 points this year.  The score changed because of adjustments in our methodology for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required).  Its ranking went from #33 to #35. Tennessee’s law needs improvement in several areas, including creating additional authorizing options, providing adequate authorizer funding, ensuring authorizer accountability, beefing up the requirements for performance-based contracts and charter school oversight, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Tennessee's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Tennessee's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Tennessee law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

12

1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Tennessee law allows new start-ups and public school conversions, but not virtual schools.

4

2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Tennessee law allows local school boards to authorize charter schools. The law also allows the achievement school district to authorize charter schools within a local educational agency (LEA) for the purpose of providing opportunities for students within the LEA who are zoned to attend or enrolled in a chronically low-performing school that is eligible to be placed in the achievement school district. It also allows the state board of education to authorize charter school applications sponsored by local school boards. There is some authorizing activity by local school boards and the achievement school district.

6

3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

While the law does not require the legislature and governor to regularly review the performance of the achievement school district as an authorizer, they can do so at any time. In addition, the ability of the achievement school district to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and governor (the entities that gave it that authority).

Tennessee law requires the state commissioner of education to prepare and submit an annual report on charter schools to the joint oversight committee on education based upon the information provided in charter school annual reports.

However, it does not require at least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state, authorizer submission of an annual report that summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio, a regular review process by authorizer oversight body of local school board authorizers, and an authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction local school board authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

6

4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Tennessee law includes none of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding. However, Tennessee law allows LEAs to charge applicants an application fee in an amount approved by the local board of education, not to exceed $500 per application.

0

5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5D. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Tennessee law contains application elements for all schools and additional application elements specific to conversion schools. It does not contain additional application elements specific when using educational service providers and elements specific to replications.

Tennessee law requires all charter approval or denial decisions to be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

It does not require authorizers to issue requests for proposals and a thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

8

6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

N/A

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Tennessee law requires the approval of a written agreement signed by the school and the authorizer, but the agreement only includes school roles, powers, and responsibilities. It does not address authorizer roles, powers, and responsibilities.

Tennessee law requires that the term of charter agreements be 10 years. It also provides that an interim review of a charter school must be conducted by its authorizer under guidelines developed by the state department of education in the fifth year of a charter school's initial period of operation and also in the fifth year following any renewal of a charter agreement. Such guidelines must require a charter school to submit to the authorizer a report on the progress of the school in achieving the goals, objectives, pupil performance standards, content standards and other terms of the approved charter agreement.

Tennessee law does not require charter contracts to define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.

8

7A. Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

N/A

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Tennessee law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes.

Tennessee law requires a charter school to make at least an annual progress report to its authorizer and the state commissioner of education. The law requires the report to contain at least the following information: the progress of the school towards achieving the goals outlined in its charter; the same information required in the reports prepared by local boards of education pursuant to state laws, rules and regulations; and financial records of the school, including revenues and expenditures.

The law requires each charter school to provide in its annual report a detailed accounting, including the amounts and sources, of funds other than those received from its authorizer.

Tennessee law requires a charter school to conduct an annual audit of its accounts and records, including internal school activity and cafeteria funds.

Tennessee law requires a public charter school to maintain its accounts and records in accordance with generally-accepted accounting principles and in conformance with the uniform chart of accounts and accounting requirements prescribed by the comptroller of the treasury. A school must prepare and publish an annual financial report that encompasses all funds and includes the audited financial statements of the charter school.

Tennessee law allows the state comptroller of the treasury to audit any books and records, including internal school activity and cafeteria funds, of any charter school created under this chapter and by virtue of the statutes of this state when the audit is deemed necessary or appropriate by the comptroller of the treasury. The state comptroller of the treasury must have the full cooperation of officials of the charter school in the performance of the audit or audits.

However, Tennessee law doesn’t require authorizers to collect and analyze student outcome data at least annually, provide authorizers the authority to conduct or require oversight activities, require authorizers to publish annual school performance reports, require authorizers to notify their schools of perceived problems and give schools opportunities to remedy such problems, and provide authorizers the authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

4

8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8F. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Tennessee law requires schools seeking renewal to apply for it. One year prior to the date on which a charter school is required to submit a renewal application, the law requires the authorizer to submit to the charter school a performance report that directly reflects the renewal application.

Tennessee law provides that a charter agreement may be revoked or denied renewal if the chartering authority determines that the charter school committed a material violation of any of the standards, conditions or procedures set forth in law, failed to meet generally-accepted standards of fiscal management, flagrantly disregarded the charter agreement or the provisions of the Charter Schools Act, or failed to remain out of priority status. Except in the case of fraud, the law provides that a decision to revoke or not renew a charter becomes effective at the close of the academic year. The provisions allowing for revocation or nonrenewal for failure to remain out of priority status apply only to those decisions where an LEA is the chartering authority.

Tennessee law requires that the term of charter agreements is 10 years. It also provides that an interim review of a charter school must be conducted by its authorizer under guidelines developed by the state department of education in the fifth year of a charter school's initial period of operation and also in the fifth year following any renewal of a charter agreement. Such guidelines must require a charter school to submit to the authorizer a report on the progress of the school in achieving the goals, objectives, pupil performance standards, content standards and other terms of the approved charter agreement.

While Tennessee law doesn’t require authorizers to provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions, it does allow for limited revocation or nonrenewal appeals to the state board of education, except for revocations or non-renewals based on a failure to remain out of priority status, flagrant disregard of the charter agreement or present law, fraud, and misappropriation of funds.

Tennessee law requires all renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for their decisions in writing.

Tennessee law contains closure protocols to address student transitions, asset disposition, and debt responsibility.

Tennessee law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year, require authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans, require authorizers to ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract, provide authorizers the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues, and require authorizers to provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

8

9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9H. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

9J. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Tennessee law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers. Tennessee law allows the governing board to enter into contracts, but statute contains no provisions regarding the details of any ESP arrangements. In addition, statute specifically prohibits charter governing boards from contracting for the management or operation of the charter school with a for-profit entity.

2

10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Tennessee law provides requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards. Statute specifically states that a charter school can buy, sell or lease property, borrow funds as needed, pledge assets as security, and sue and be sued.

A governing body must be established for each charter school to oversee matters, including, but not limited to, budgeting, curriculum and other operating procedures.

12

11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds, incur debt, and pledge, assign or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

According to Tennessee law, if applications exceed the planned capacity of the public charter school, the following preferences shall apply: pupils in attendance in the previous school year at any public school that converts to become a public charter school; pupils attending during the previous school year another charter school that has an articulation agreement with the enrolling public charter school provided that the articulation agreement has been approved by the chartering authority or a pre-K program operated by the charter school sponsor; children residing within the LEA service area in which the public charter school is located, but who are not enrolled in public schools, if those children would otherwise be included in the area in which the public charter school will focus; and children residing outside the LEA in which the public charter school is located and whose needs would be included in the area in which the public charter school will focus.

If enrollment within one of the above groups exceeds the planned capacity of the school, the law requires that enrollment within that group shall be determined on the basis of a lottery.

The law allows charters to give preference to the siblings of a pupil who is already enrolled and to the children of a teacher, sponsor or member of the governing body of the charter school, not to exceed 10% of total enrollment or 25 students, whichever is less. However, it does not require enrollment preferences for prior year students within chartered schools.

6

12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Instead of providing charters with automatic exemptions from most state and district laws and regulations, Tennessee law provides that charters may apply to either the school district or the state commissioner of education for waivers of regulations and statutes.

Tennessee law requires charter teachers to be certified.

3

13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

The law does not require a charter school to participate in a collective bargaining agreement. However, a charter school's employees may form a bargaining unit, which may elect to represent themselves in negotiations with the charter school's governing body, or they may elect to be represented by any qualified person or organization, including the local bargaining unit within the school district. A charter school's bargaining unit can bargain only with the governing board of the charter school, and not with the local school board.

12

14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Tennessee law is silent regarding multi-school charter contracts and multi-charter contracts boards. In practice, some independent public charter school boards are overseeing multiple charter contracts.

2

15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Tennessee law is silent about extra-curricular and interscholastic activities eligibility and access for charter school students and employees.

1

16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Tennessee law requires charter schools to provide special education services for students, but does not provide clarity regarding which entity is the LEA responsible for providing special education services and regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

2

17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The state law includes some of the model law’s provisions for equitable operational and categorical funding. There is no evidence of the amount of funds charters receive versus districts.

Tennessee law requires a local board of education to allocate to a charter school an amount equal to the per student state and local funds received by the district and all appropriate allocations under federal law or regulation, including, but not limited to, Title I and ESEA funds.

The law requires the state department of education to promulgate rules and regulations that provide for the determination of the allocation of state and local funds. At a minimum, the law specifies that the rules must provide that: allocations shall be based on 100% of state and local funds received by the district, including current funds allocated for capital outlay purposes, excluding the proceeds of debt obligations and associated debt service; student enrollments used in allocations shall be for the same period used in allocating state funds to the district under the basic education program; and allocations to the charter school may not be reduced by the LEA for administrative, indirect or any other category of cost or charge except as specifically provided in a charter agreement.

4

18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Tennessee law requires the state department of education: to calculate the amount of state funding required under the basic education program for capital outlay as a non-classroom component to be received in a fiscal year by a district in which one or more charter schools operate; to reserve from the sum for such district the funds that constitute the amount due to charter schools operating in the district and not distribute such reserved amount to the district; distribute from the reserved amount directly to each charter school its total per pupil share as determined by its average daily membership (ADM). The law provides that the per pupil share of each charter school must be based on prior year ADM, except that the per-pupil share of any charter school in its first year of operation must be based on the anticipated enrollment in the charter agreement.

The law further provides that a district must include in the local share of funds paid to a charter school the required district match for the state funds generated under the BEP for capital outlay as a non-classroom component that are paid directly to a charter school as per pupil facilities aid.

The amount of the allotment varies by the district in which a charter school is located. Currently, the allotment is between approximately $215 and $315 per pupil.

The law requires an LEA having underutilized and vacant properties to make the properties available for use by charter schools operating in the LEA. The law provides that a charter school may not be required to pay a base rent for the use of any underutilized and vacant property owned or operated by the LEA and may only be required to remit payment for the maintenance and operational costs associated with the occupancy of the property or space.

Furthermore, by October 1 of each year, the law requires any LEA in which one or more charter schools operates to annually catalog all vacant properties owned or operated by the LEA and all vacant space within any educational facility owned or operated by the LEA. The law requires the LEA to submit a comprehensive listing of all such properties and space to the state department of education, which must make an LEA's list available to any charter school operating in the LEA or to any sponsor seeking to establish a public charter school in the LEA.

The law provides that charter schools that have the support of their local taxing authority are eligible to access tax-exempt financing through the Tennessee Local Development Authority.

8

19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance which annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19D. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allow charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19E. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for public charter school facilities.

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

19G. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Tennessee law requires charter schools to participate in the relevant employee retirement systems.

4

20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).