(NASHVILLE), March 18, 2014 – The Senate Education Committee has approved legislation sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) that would provide traditional public schools with the same flexibility as charter schools with regard to requesting waivers from the commissioner of the state’s Department of Education. The bill provides the commissioner can grant a waiver as long as it does not interfere with teachers’ due process rights, salaries, benefits or licensure.
“In 2002, with the enactment of Tennessee’s Public Charter Schools Act, one of the talking points was that the legislation would create laboratories of learning whereby best practices or new techniques could be replicated throughout the state,” said Sen. Overbey. “However, under current law traditional schools are limited in duplicating these best practices.”
“This bill will give our traditional public schools the same opportunities to ask for waivers and employ some of the practices that have been proven to work in charters and those schools which have waivers or less restrictive environments,” added Overbey.
Currently, local education agencies (LEA) may apply for a waiver from the State Board of Education’s rules and regulations; however, the commissioner cannot waive certain regulatory or statutory requirements. Senate Bill 2392 authorizes the commissioner to waive any state statute that inhibits the LEA’s ability to meet its goals or comply with its mission to improve student outcomes.
Last year, the General Assembly passed the High Performing School Districts Flexibility Act, which gives leeway to school districts who qualify as “high performing school districts.” To qualify, however, districts must meet a majority of requirements that include a 90% or above graduation rate, 21 or higher average ACT score, and high or seriously improved TCAP performance. This bill applies the same flexibility to schools across the board as long as the commissioner agrees.
“Our traditional public schools should be allowed the same opportunity already afforded charter schools and high performing school districts to adopt innovative learning techniques that will help improve student scores,” added Overbey. “We are very optimistic that it will be passed on final consideration.”