State Senator Brian Kelsey(R-Germantown) filed a bill Tuesday in Nashville that would transfer to state authority the schools of any district with 15 percent of its schools on the state’s non-performing list if a majority of voters in that district opted to surrender the district’s charter.
The residents of Memphis will have the opportunity to do just that in the wake of Monday night’s vote by the MCS board to call a referendum of surrendering the district’s charter. The vote was taken as a way of countering prospective plans by the Shelby County School Board to seek special-school-district status for SCS schools.
What Board members Martavius Jones and Tomeka Hart intended in sponsoring the charter-surrender resolution Monday night was to force city/county school consolidation as a check to any separatist move on the part of the county schools. Kelsey’s bill would force the city schools instead into the Achievement School District which was newly created as an aspect of last January’s enactment by the General Assembly of “First to the Top” legislation.
Under the act, schools qualify for the Achievement School District if they are in the fifth year of improvement status or meet the federal definition of persistently lowest achieving schools.
Kelsey’s bill, co-sponsored in the House by state Representative Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett), would include all schools in a district if a majority of the district’s voters favor relinquishing of its charter and if 15 percent or more of the schools in the district are listed by the Commissioner of Education as high priority schools.
“This bill focuses on what is best for the children: improving educational outcomes by providing the tools to succeed,” said Kelsey. If the residents of a qualifying district “vote to give up local control, then it's time to give control over to the very best educational experts Tennessee has to offer."
House members Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), Curry Todd (R-Collierville), Mark White (R-Memphis) have also indicated they intend to sign on to such legislation.