2013

Shelby County Board of Education Legislative Agenda

Prepared by Venita Doggett, Legislative Affairs

Microsoft 12/12/2012

Achievement School District The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) urges the Tennessee General Assembly to amend the TCA 49-1-614 to provide clarifying language for various provisions of the Achievement School District. The Achievement School District (ASD) was created to provide assistance in improving student achievement in the state’s lowest performing schools. The ASD is granted the authority to use innovative methods to bolster student achievement through the authorization of charter schools and/or school management organizations. However, the act needs clarifying language regarding the return of schools to the local education agency once achievement goals are met and the status of school “programs” and buildings during the phase-in/take-over process. The SCBE asks that the General Assembly amend TCA 49-1-614 to provide clarity regarding the ASD.

Charter Schools The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) opposes any legislation that would allow multiple authorizers for charter schools. Currently, TCA 49-13-107 permits local education agencies (LEAs) and the Achievement School District (ASD) to authorize public charter schools. Although the ASD is permitted to authorize charter schools, its focus is on Priority Schools. Therefore, LEAs remain the primary authorizer for charter schools in the State of Tennessee. When evaluating charter schools, the SCBE utilizes a rigorous and robust method for approving charter schools. Such application procedures enable the school district to ensure that quality charter school operators serve our students. Because of Tennessee’s accountability standards, only one charter school in Shelby County has been closed due to poor student achievement. By allowing multiple authorizers, the State will remove the local controls that have been successful in authorizing quality charter schools. According to research by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, local education agencies are more likely to implement “essential practices that are necessary to authorize high-quality charter schools.” Additionally, the creation of multiple authorizers would remove the LEA from providing critical planning input when discussing contractual services and space assessments. The SCBE Charter School Office has been instrumental in providing planning input and district level services to local charter schools to ensure that they are able to meet the needs of our students. A multiple authorizer model may not have the ability to provide the same level of services as LEAs can to any charter schools it authorizes. Therefore, the SCBE opposes any legislation that would allow other entities to authorize charter schools.

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The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) opposes any legislation that seeks to remove the local education agency requirement for approval to convert a public school to charter schools under TCA 4913-106(b)(2)(A). In accordance with the Tennessee Public Charter Schools Act, an eligible public school may convert to a public charter school if sixty percent (60%) of the parents of the children enrolled at the school agree and provide a petition seeking a conversion and the local education agency (LEA) agrees to the conversion. This provision is commonly known as the “Parent Trigger Law.” Any proposed legislation that would remove the LEA approval requirement, would allow parents greater authority in triggering reform at both the school and the administration level. Such action, however, is not indicative of true education reform and parental empowerment as neither takes into consideration any established mechanism to intervene at low-performing schools. The SCBE supports a process in which parents are involved in developing strategies for improvement, and encourages ongoing collaboration between parents, staff, and administration.

The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) opposes any legislation that would require that local education agencies permit charter schools to utilize facilities at no cost. Currently, local education agencies (LEAs) are permitted to enter into lease agreements with charter schools for use of LEA owned facilities. LEAs are also required to provide a list of under-utilized and vacant property to the Department of Education and the Comptroller of the Treasury. Requiring LEAs to provide facilities at no cost removes local control from LEAs to effectively manage its property. Therefore, the SCBE requests that the General Assembly make no laws that infringe upon a LEAs ability to manage its facilities.

The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) urges the General Assembly to amend TCA 49-13-119 to cover charter school teachers and personnel under the state’s group health insurance plan. Under TCA 49-13-119, charter school teachers must be covered by and reported under the local education agency’s group health insurance plan in the same manner as its teachers, although they are not employees of the local education agency (LEA). Additionally, LEAs that provide post-retirement group health insurance benefits (“post-retirement benefits”) must also meet the mandates of GASB 45, which require public agencies to pre-fund the future costs of post-retirement benefits or report them as liabilities. This places an especially undue burden on self-funded LEAs that provide post-retirement benefits. Covering charter school employees under the state’s group health insurance plan would relieve the undue burden to the local education agency for these non-employees, thus allowing the state to provide these benefits at a cost that is significantly less than the cost to the LEA. 2013 SCBE Legislative Agenda Prepared by Venita Doggett, Legislative Affairs Page 3

The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) urges the General Assembly to review the manner in which charter schools are funded. Currently, the Charter Schools Act requires local education agencies (LEAs) to allocate funding to charter schools based on Average Daily Membership (ADM) whereas LEAs are allocated funding based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA). Often, the ADA and the ADM figures do not always match, resulting in a lower funding allocation to LEAs based on the smaller ADA figures. This results in charter school per pupil amounts being larger than the LEA portion of funding. In addition to the ADA vs. ADM funding disparities, LEAs are required to allocate funds to charter schools in “no fewer than nine (9) equal installments” under TCA 49-13-112. This requirement states that all funds, including local and state funds, must be dispersed in this manner. However, LEAs do not receive all local funds in nine (9) installment payments. Often, many LEAs receive local funds at specified times based on the collection of local property taxes. The current law essentially requires the LEA to fund charter schools with monies that it has not yet received. The SCBE requests that the General Assembly review the current funding structure for charter schools to ensure that both LEAs and charter schools receive fair allocations.

The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) requests that the Charter School Act be amended to allow local education agencies (LEAs) to assess administrative fees for administrative services provided by the LEA to charter schools. The Charter School Act does not allow LEAs to assess administrative fees or charge charter schools for administrative services. TCA 49-13-112 allows LEAs to charge fees, if mutually agreed upon in contract, for administrative overhead costs for services such as food services, special education services, and transportation. These fees however, does not cover the direct cost for LEA school-level administrative support functions of assisting with authorization and state oversight requirements (e.g reviewing monthly ADA and ADM reports, maintaining chart school enrollment records). As a result, LEAs must absorb the cost of providing these services to charter schools. The SCBE requests that the General Assembly amend TCA 49-13-112 to allow LEAs to charge charter schools for administrative fees without needing a contractual agreement.

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Elected Superintendents The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) opposes legislation allowing for the election of the superintendent of schools. Currently, only three states in the country have elected superintendents. The appointment of superintendents increases the level of accountability as appointed superintendents can be removed by the board for failure to meet goals and performance standards, whereas, an elected superintendent must be voted out of office during an election cycle. Additionally, the appointment of superintendents increases the candidate pool via national searches whereas an elected superintendent must meet state/local residency requirements. Guns in Parking Lots The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) opposes any legislation that would allow weapons in the parking lots of school districts. Currently, TCA 39-17-1309 prohibits individuals from possessing weapons on school grounds. During the 2012 legislative session, a bill was introduced that would allow individuals to stow weapons in vehicles regardless if the business or property owner objects. Next to ensuring that all students receive a quality education, the second most critical job of a LEA is to provide a safe and secure environment for students, teachers and school district personnel. Allowing weapons to be stowed in vehicles on school grounds could pose a potentially dangerous situation to students and personnel if a weapon was stolen and used on school grounds. The SCBE encourages the General Assembly to help keep school campuses safe by allowing LEAs and Colleges to remain excluded from any legislation allowing weapons to be stowed in vehicles.

Pre-Kindergarten The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) urges the General Assembly to allocate funding to expand Tennessee’s Pre-Kindergarten classes for all at-risk youth. The SCBE applauds the commitment the Tennessee General Assembly has taken by funding Tennessee’s Pre-K Programs. Many studies have shown that children in early childhood development and Pre-K programs have higher achievement scores, lower dropout rates, and obtain higher educational levels. Yet, there remains a great need to expand Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K for all at-risk youth. Given the statistics that relate poverty level to a student’s success in school and life, and the 2011 Census data 2013 SCBE Legislative Agenda Prepared by Venita Doggett, Legislative Affairs Page 5

shows that 12.7% of Tennessee families live below the poverty level, the need for early learning programs is even more apparent and imminent. The SCBE encourages the General Assembly to expand the Pre-K program to more Tennessee families and allocate additional funding for Pre-K programs in an effort to ensure that our most vulnerable youth are given the opportunity to reach their academic potential and become productive citizens.

The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) urges the General Assembly to preserve funding for Tennessee’s Pre-Kindergarten programs. The SCBE applauds the demonstrated commitment of the Tennessee General Assembly to fund Tennessee’s Pre-K programs. National studies highlight the importance of pre-kindergarten programs to the success of students. Children in early childhood development and Pre-K programs have higher achievement scores, lower dropout rates, and obtain higher educational levels. In addition to the gains made by the students, communities also reap the benefits of early childhood programs. Students who attended early childhood programs have higher employment and earnings as adults, engage in fewer criminal acts as both juveniles and adults, depend less on public assistance, and have lower incarceration rates. The SCBE urges the General Assembly to continue its support to Pre-K programs by preserving funding and opposing any legislation that would decrease the number of Pre-Kindergarten classrooms.

Virtual Schools The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) supports legislation to strengthen accountability measures for virtual school programs. In 2011, the General Assembly passed the “Virtual Public Schools Act” allowing local education agencies (LEA) to establish full-time virtual education programs. The act also permits LEAs to contract with various non-profit and for -profit entities to operate and manage virtual schools. The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) commends the General Assembly in allowing LEAs to utilize innovative methods while seeking to increase student achievement. While the goal to increase student achievement is of the utmost importance, LEAs must adhere to strict accountability standards in order to meet those goals. The General Assembly has established rigorous accountability methods for both LEAs and Charter Schools in order to bolster student achievement. However, the Virtual Public Schools Act does not include similar accountability requirements for virtual schools. The Shelby County Board of Education urges the General Assembly to amend the Virtual Public Schools Act to include accountability standards for Tennessee’s newest public education model to ensure the success of Tennessee’s Education reform efforts. 2013 SCBE Legislative Agenda Prepared by Venita Doggett, Legislative Affairs Page 6

Vouchers The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) opposes legislation establishing the creation of a state voucher program. In 2012, Governor Haslam authorized a task force to study national voucher programs and the feasibility of creating a program for Tennessee. State voucher programs have emerged as popular educational policy; however, the programs have been met with inconclusive evidence to suggest that the programs bolster student academic achievement. A study evaluating the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program notes that after three (3) years of the program’s implementation, it did not have a significant impact on student achievement. Another study evaluating Indiana’s voucher program indicated that participation in the program did not result in any significant improvement in academic achievement. Beyond the limited data that suggests voucher programs improve student achievement, the educational landscape in Tennessee has changed tremendously. The General Assembly has enacted sweeping legislation that has expanded the Tennessee Public Charter Schools Act, established Virtual Schools, revamped its performance standards, and established the Achievement School District in just a few short years. Many of the new programs have issues that hamper successful implementation and need legislation to strengthen accountability measures or clarify statutory ambiguities. Therefore, the SCBE opposes any legislation seeking to create a statewide voucher program.

Worker’s Compensation The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) opposes any legislation that would subject local education agencies to the Tennessee Worker’s Compensation law. Currently, local education agencies (LEAs) are excluded from the Worker’s Compensation Law. Should proposed legislation seek to include LEAs in the Worker’s Compensation Law, LEAs could potentially pay substantial amounts for lawsuits brought against the LEA.

2013 SCBE Legislative Agenda Prepared by Venita Doggett, Legislative Affairs Page 7

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