Memphis Charters in Doubt as TN Overturns Board’s Ruling

Over the past year, the Grizzlies Foundation has invested heavily in teacher training. But its charter school, a college-prep middle school for boys, that was expected to open in fall 2012 hangs in the state treasurer’s hands after the unified school board rejected its application, saying that the school and 13 other high-scoring applications pose serious financial threats to the traditional public schools in the county, writes Jane Roberts at the Commercial Appeal.

“I’m disappointed for the kids that this (school) would help,” said Ross Glotzbach, Grizzlies Prep board chairman.

“The alternatives that these kids would have to go to, boys there score 5 percent proficient on their test,” he said. “In one school, they did not have one seventh- or eighth-grader pass the math TCAP in the last year.”

However, both Memphis City Schools Supt. Kriner Cash and Shelby County Schools Supt. John Aitken recommended that the unified board deny all the applications, saying that losing nearly 2,000 students would decimate public school budgets.

“When I looked at the data presented on this issue, it immediately became glaringly clear that Memphis City Schools cannot now and into the future withstand the financial impact to the district that this many charter schools being approved each year would have,” Cash said.

The districts were granted the power to veto charter plans after lawmakers approved an amendment to Gov. Bill Haslam’s charter-school legislation last year. The legislation now allows for boards of education to deny charter applications if it was deemed they”would be contrary to the best interests of the public, the school district or community.”

The decision seems to be a wholly financial one. As estimated enrollment in the 12 Memphis charter schools, plus growth in its existing 25 charters, would cost MCS about $24 million, Cash couldn’t justify that.

The money translates to about 400 jobs.

Lee Harrell, spokesman for the Tennessee School Board Association:

“In light of everything going on in Memphis with a lot of concern about finances and funding, I think the legislature completely enabled the board to make the decision it did.”

But you can see how this could be galling for Grizzlies, as had the board have not voted on Tuesday then all the schools would have been approved the next day automatically.

The district now has a week to give its reasons for denying the charters to the state treasurer’s office.