Nashville School District to Lose $3.4 Mil on Charter Flub

It didn’t take long for the other shoe to drop in the case of Nashville Metro School District’s defiance of a Tennessee Board of Education directive resulting in the denial of a charter school application for Great Hearts Academies. The Tennessee Board of Education announced that because of what took place at the Metro’s School Board meetings of August 14th and September 11th, the district will lose out on $3.4 million in funding due to its “refusal to follow state law.”

Great Hearts Academies applied to open five charter schools in the Nashville area to begin operating this fall. The Metro board put all the applications submitted in front of the assembled a charter school committee. Although the committee recommended approving Great Hearts, Metro district leaders expressed concern with some aspects of the application, in particular the number of schools and the lack of a comprehensive diversity plan, and denied the application.

Great Hearts appealed the denial to the State Board of Education, which recommended that the application be approved, assuming the company made some changes including opening only one school instead of the initially proposed five, and strengthening the diversity plan that was such an issue with Metro board members. The State Board’s intervention was for naught. After delaying the final vote for a month in August, in September the Metro Board members in a 5-4 vote once again denied Great Hearts’ application.

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said they had hoped to avoid withholding funds, but Metro School’s decision forced them to act.

“It is our job to enforce state law, and we have no choice but to take this action,” said Huffman.
Officials said the funding would be reallocated to other school districts in the state.
Metro Schools issues a statement saying they were disappointed with the cut in funding.

“We do not yet have a plan on how we will respond to this disruptive mid-year cut. Our priority will always be to give the best education to our students with the resources we have,” the statement said.

Both Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell have come out in support of the decision to withhold the funding. Harwell said that the penalty was entirely justified by the fact that the Metro School Board willfully defied the state law on at least two occasions. Such brazen disregard for the will of the legislature should not be allowed to go without consequences, she added.

The punishment, however, comes too late for Great Hearts. After the September 11th vote, the company made the decision to pull out of Tennessee entirely until such time as “Tennessee’s laws and charter approval process more effectively provide for open enrollment, broad service to the community and impartial authorizers.”

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