New Charter Schools Can Open in August

By Bill Dries

Add 17 charter schools in Shelby County when the new school year begins in August.

Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard ruled Wednesday, April 4, that the countywide school board was wrong in one of its first major decisions when it denied en masse the applications for the charter schools in November.

All of the applicants met the standards of the rigorous review process, but the board voted to turn down the applications on the grounds that all 17 being added to the school system in the 2012-2013 school year would pose a financial hardship on the district.

Several school board members, during the discussion, specifically said the move of students out of the Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools to the new charters would be too much of a drain on funding for the school systems that are in the process of merging.

That was also the recommendation of MCS superintendent Kriner Cash and SCS superintendent John Aitken.

The “financial hardship” reasoning triggered a specific process in state law that sends the decision to the Tennessee Treasurer’s office for review.

Lillard, working with the state Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability, reviewed the dollar figures as well as the attendance projections and disagreed.

“Even taking a view most favorable to the Unified Board, it appears that based on the data provided, the Unified Board has the ability to reduce the number of classrooms and reduce expenses as contemplated by the statute, which clearly supports a finding that the application denials were not reasonable based on a substantial negative fiscal impact,” Lillard wrote in the 16-page decision.

The countywide school board can appeal the determination to the Tennessee Board of Education within five days of the decision.