Tennessee families deserve high-quality options when it comes to the education of their children. Governor Lee has made it a priority to expand quality school choice options in Tennessee, and in 2019 the 111th General Assembly established the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission with a twofold purpose: to ensure that only the highest quality charter schools operate in Tennessee and to create an independent state agency to lead that effort.
How will this new entity work? How will it support the creation of high-quality charter schools in Tennessee?
This commission joins 18 other statewide authorizing boards across the US. With a singular focus on charter school authorization, the commission is able to work toward two goals: allow charter schools with proven results to serve more students and hold a high bar for charter schools looking to open in the state.
While charter school applications must first be submitted to local school districts, the Charter Commission plays the critical role of serving as the appeal option for charter schools. In this role, the commission will ensure that only charter schools meeting the highest standards and serving the best interests of students will receive approval. There are currently 118 charter schools operating in the state, with three of them operating under the State Board of Education (SBE).
The Charter Commission assumed the appeals process from the SBE on January 1; in July, the commission becomes the authorizer for the three charter schools currently operating under the SBE. Those schools — two in Nashville and one in Memphis — serve about 1,000 students, which also makes it a school district in a few short months. To support this role, the commission has been building a team with some of the best people in the state to seamlessly transition the work from SBE and to support the schools, students, and families in our district.
To prepare to serve as the appellate body, the commission received training from both national and state experts on how to fulfill these functions in a high-quality way. Every commissioner serving on the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission has significant professional and personal experience supporting high-quality education in our state, and they bring a wide range of expertise to the work. Chairman Tom Griscom from Hamilton County has a strong background in public service and has been a great leader for the commission as we work to get this plane off the ground. All of the commissioners have worked diligently to become the subject matter experts that our work requires them to be.
Tess Stovall is executive director of the Tennessee Public Charter Schools Commission.