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Public Money for Public Schools


We are continuing to fight for much-needed public funds for our public schools, which rank 47th in the country in per-student spending. There have been many efforts lately for public funding to go to private, for-profit schools. We believe public money should be invested in schools that serve all our students and are accountable to the public.

Why are Charter Schools are Problematic

1. Charter Schools Have Dismal Academic Outcomes:

According to Tennessee Department of Education data,

  • 37% of Tennessee charter schools are ranked in the bottom 5% of schools based on student performance. 

  • 77% of Tennessee charter schools sit in the bottom 10%. 

  • Schools overseen by the state-run Achievement School District have a success rate of 4.5%.

  • 80% of all charter schools in Tennessee have a "success rate" in math and English that's lower than the districts where they're located.

  • Over 25% of Nashville’s charter schools have been shut down for poor performance.

2. Charter Schools Have a History of Scandals and Closure:

Charter schools are privately operated, and are not subject to the same regulations and oversight as public schools. Sometimes, that leads to fraud and instability. For example:

  • In 2022, three former school leaders at the Memphis Academy of Health Sciences were indicted on charges of stealing nearly $400,000 from the school for personal use, including trips to Las Vegas, a hot tub, NBA tickets, auto repairs and more. 

  • Two KIPP charter schools in Memphis closed abruptly in April of 2020, leaving over 650 students and their families on the curb in the middle of a school year.

  • The Tennessee State Board of Education closed Southwest Early College High School in Memphis in 2020 because of unlicensed teachers and a failure to provide mandated services for special needs students. 

  • A husband/wife team leading a Nashville charter serving 150 kids paid themselves $563k per year, well more than public school administrators make. The school was shut down after an investigation into financial irregularities.

3. Charter Schools Take Funding from Public Schools: 

  • State law and charter school contracts require districts to fully fund charters even when districts face budget cuts. Once opened, charter schools are always paid first and always get full funding, while neighborhood schools suffer cuts and risk being closed. 

  • When charter schools take students from public schools, they get the per-student funding but public schools are stuck with fixed costs like staffing and building maintenance.

  • Because charter schools accept fewer students with disabilities, public schools are left with less funding to serve more higher-needs children. This means that school districts have to cut student programs, close schools, delay needed renovations and make other sacrifices to accommodate the new charters.

Find out what you can do to take action at the link below.

The video below is from the Knox County School Board Meeting where an all-boys charter school approval was on the agenda. The approval failed at this meeting, but passed later in a special-called board meeting.

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