Last Thursday, the legislature completed its business and Tennessee lawmakers closed the books on the 108th General Assembly. The legislative plaza proved to be a hotbed of highly charged issues this year – from wrangling over Medicaid expansion and teacher pay increases to allowing open carry of handguns without a permit. As in years past, a good deal of the spotlight was on issues related to education, including vouchers, the implementation of Common Core State Standards, and teacher licensure.
We identified and actively monitored more than 50 pieces of legislation during this session, all of which had a significant impact on education. Below you will find brief summaries of some of this session’s most notable bills related to education.
CHARTER AUTHORIZER REFORM
HB 702 (White, M.)/ SB 830 (Gresham) Amends the Tennessee Public Charter Schools Act. Provides that the State Board of Education will have appellate jurisdiction over applications rejected by local school boards that have at least one priority school on the state’s priority schools list. Outlines the process by which the State Board will hear appeals of charter school applications that were denied by local boards. Reiterates that the decisions of the State Board in these cases are final and not subject to further appeal.
If a local school board’s denial of a charter school application was based on the local school board’s determination that the establishment of the charter school would have a substantial negative fiscal impact, the State Board is required to consider the financial impact of the charter school on the LEA prior to approving a charter school application on appeal. The State Board is expressly prohibited from authorizing charter schools in such instances.
Under the new law, the state board is responsible for overseeing and monitoring the charter schools that it authorizes. For accountability purposes, the measure specifies that the performance of a charter school authorized by the State Board will not be attributable to the local school board. However, a charter school authorized by the State Board and a local school board may mutually agree that the local board will oversee and monitor the school. In this instance, the performance of the charter school will be attributable to the local board.
Charter schools authorized by the State Board will receive the full state and local Basic Education Program (“BEP”) funding and federal funding due to other public charter schools. The charters authorized by the State Board will receive its portion of federal and state BEP funding directly from the Department of Education.
STAND’S POSITION: Support
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed, 20-13. House passed, 62-30. Transmitted to Governor.
(The House originally passed HB 702 during the last legislative session. However, its companion bill was held over in the Senate until this legislative session.)
ACHIEVEMENT SCHOOL DISTRICT (“ASD”)
HB 1780 (DeBerry)/ SB 1887 (Gresham) Amends the Tennessee Public Charter Schools Act. Allows ASD charter schools to enroll students beyond those who are zoned to attend, or enrolled in, a school that is eligible to be placed in the Achievement School District.
Requires charter schools authorized by the ASD to conduct an initial student application period of at least thirty (30) days. During this prescribed period, all students who are zoned to attend, or currently enrolled in, a school that is eligible to be placed in the ASD may enroll. After the initial enrollment period, the charter school may enroll additional students, if the number of eligible students seeking enrollment does not exceed the school’s capacity.
Eligible students must fall into one of the following categories: (1) In the previous school year, failed to test proficient in the subjects of reading/ language arts or mathematics in grades3-8 on the TCAP; (2) In the previous school year, failed to test proficient in the subjects of reading/ language arts or mathematics on the end of course assessments in grades 9-12; or (3) Are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. These additional students could not represent more than twenty-five percent (25%) of the school’s total student enrollment.
STAND’S POSITION: Support
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed, 24-6-2. House bill failed in Budget Subcommittee of Finance Committee.
REVOCATION OF CHARTER SCHOOL AGREEMENTS
HB 1989 (White)/ SB 2285 (Dickerson) Provides that a charter school agreement must be revoked, or denied renewal, if the school is designated a priority school. The governing body of the charter school is entitled to ask the Department of Education to review the data used in making such a determination
A charter school agreement may be revoked or denied renewal if the final chartering authority determines that the school did any of the following: (1) committed a material violation of the agreement; (2) failed to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management; (3) or performed any of the acts that are conditions for nonapproval as dictated by statute. The chartering authority is required to state its reasons for revoking or denying the renewal of an agreement. Revocations take effect immediately following the close of the school year.
The new law also metes out a procedure for closing or winding down a charter school. First, a chartering authority must have a procedure in place for closing a charter school. Within, two (2) weeks of closing a school, the chartering authority must meet with the school’s governing body and establish a transition team. The team will be responsible for managing various aspects of the school’s closure, including the release and transfer of records, the transfer of students, disposition of school funds, etc. The chartering authority and transition team are also required to keep parents and families of students apprised of key information regarding the school’s closure.
STAND’S POSITION: Support
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed, 31-0. House passed, 91-0. Transmitted to Governor.
FOR-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOL OPERATORS
HB 1693 (DeBerry)/ SB 1684 (Gresham) Amends the Tennessee Public Charter Schools Act. Allows the governing body of a public charter school to contract with for-profit entities for the management or operation of a charter school. The bill removes the current statutory restriction against for-profit groups managing charter schools.
STAND’S POSITION: Oppose
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate bill passed out of Education Committee, 6-3. House companion failed in Calendar and Rules Committee, 7-10-1.
HB 190 (McCormick)/ SB 196 (Norris) Creates the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act. Establishes a statewide scholarship program for eligible students to attend participating private schools.
Scholarship funds would be rewarded to students who: (1) reside in Tennessee and are zoned to attend or enrolled in a public school that has been identified as being in the bottom five percent (5%) of schools in overall achievement as determined by the criteria set by the State Board of Education; (2) meet the minimum age requirements to attend kindergarten, with eligibility extending until graduation; (3) belong to low-income families and qualify for free or reduced price lunch; and (4) were previously enrolled in a Tennessee public school during the two (2) semesters immediately preceding the semester in which a scholarship is received in accordance with this legislation, is enrolling in a Tennessee school for the first time, or received a scholarship in accordance with this legislation in the previous year.
The bill places annual caps on the total number of scholarships that may be awarded. In the first year, awards would be limited to 5,000 students. In the second and third year, the total number of scholarships awarded would be limited to 7,500 and 10,000, respectively. The number of scholarships awarded would finally crest in its fourth year, capping the total number of scholarships at 20,000. The maximum dollar amount of the scholarships would be equal to either the cost of tuition and fees that would otherwise be charged by the school, or the per pupil amount generated through the BEP for the LEA in which the student resides and is zoned to attend.
If the annual cap on the total number of scholarships is not met, the bill opens eligibility to all low-income students who reside in an LEA that has at least one (1) school in the bottom five percent (5%), meets the age requirements for attendance, and is properly enrolled in a Tennessee public school. The Senate and House versions differ slightly here, as there was an effort afoot in the lower chamber to expand eligibility to students enrolled in schools in the bottom ten percent (10%).
The proposed legislation also prescribes a number of requirements for private schools wishing to participate in the program, including administering assessments and being identified as a category, I, II, or III school.
STAND’S POSITION: Neutral
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed 21-10. House companion failed in House Finance Committee.
HB 1959 (DeBerry)/ SB 2338 (Kelsey) Provides that parents of students enrolled in a public school that has been identified as a school in the bottom ten percent (10%) of schools may petition the local school board for the conversion of the school to a charter school, or for the restructuring of the school through the transformation or turnaround model. The petition must specify which option the parents are choosing.
With regard to the option of restructuring through the transformation or turnaround model, the bill mandates that the petition must be signed by 51% of the parents before it can be presented to the local school board. With regard to the option of converting to a charter school, either sixty percent (60%) of the teachers of the school, or fifty-one percent (51%) of the parents of students enrolled in the school, must sign the petition before it can be presented to the local school board. Parents are also required to sign a pledge of support, agreeing to assist the school through its conversion or restructuring.
If parents petition for the transformation model, the local school board must ensure that the transformation (1) develops teacher and leader effectiveness, including replacing the principal and identifying school leaders; (2) adopts comprehensive instructional reform strategies; (3) extends learning time and creates community-oriented schools; and (4) provides operating flexibility and sustained support, such as intensive technical assistance. Likewise, if parents petition for the turnaround model, the local board shall ensure that the turnaround results in: (1) replacement of the principal and fifty percent (50%) of the staff; (2) adoption of new governance of the school; and (3) implementation of a new or revised instructional program.
When a school is restructured under either of the transformation or turnaround model, the LEA must form a community support council for the school. The council would be comprised of parent, community leaders, teachers, and staff. Its chief task would be to create opportunities for parents, students, and the community to come together to support the work of the school. After five (5) schools have been restructured in accordance with this measure, the Comptroller’s office must study the effects of community support councils on the restructuring process.
STAND’S POSITION: Neutral
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate bill passed Education Committee, 8-1, and sent to Calendar Committee. House companion failed in Budget Subcommittee.
HB 1375 (Forgety)/ SB 2240 (Tracy) Prohibits the Department of Education from revoking or not renewing the license of a supervisor, principal, or teacher based on student growth data as represented by TVASS or its functional equivalent.
STAND’S POSITION: Oppose
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed, 26-6. House passed, 88-0. Transmitted to Governor.
HB 1381 (Forgety)/ SB 1856 (Crowe) Provides that an LEA may adopt a salary schedule that is identical in either structure or designated salary levels, or both, to the salary schedule that the LEA had in place during the 2012-2013 school year. Provides that the schedule must contain steps for each year of service, up to a maximum of twenty (20) years. The schedule must also contain steps for the attainment of advance degrees at the Master’s Degree Designation, Master’s Degree Plus Forty-Five (45) Designation, Education Specialist’s Degree Designation, and the Doctor’s Degree Designation. Prohibits the adoption of a salary schedule that will result in a reduction of the salary of a teacher who was employed by the LEA at the time the salary schedule was adopted.
STAND’S POSITION: Oppose
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed, 30-1. House passed, 95-0. Transmitted to Governor.
HB 1758 (Haynes)/ SB 1813 (Massey) Provides that a teacher who has received an evaluation demonstrating an overall performance effectiveness level of “significantly above expectations” on each of the teacher’s last three (3) evaluations may petition the Commissioner of Education for a waiver of any requirement for renewal of the teacher’s license. If the Commissioner grants the waiver, the teacher is not responsible for meeting the requirement that was waived in order to receive a renewal of the license.
STAND’S Position: Neutral
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed, 32-0. House companion passed, 90-0. Transmitted to Governor.
HB 2264 (Hawk)/ SB 2342 (Bowling) Prohibits the State Board of Education from establishing rules, policies, or guidelines that require classroom observation results to be aligned with TVASS data.
STAND’S Position: Oppose
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed, 28-0. House passed, 97-0. Transmitted to Governor.
COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
HB 1549 (Dunn)/ SB 1835 (Gresham) Prohibits the federal government from imposing educational standards onto Tennessee public schools. Creates the “Data Accessibility, Transparency, and Accountability Act.” Expressly grants parents and guardians the right to inspect and review their children’s education records.
Restricts the State of Tennessee from adopting Common Core State Standards in any subject area beyond mathematics and English language arts. Provides that the State Board of Education must post any proposed changes to educational standards for public review, and submit the proposed changes to the Education Committees of both the House and Senate. The Board must remit the changes sixty (60) days before it meets to adopt the standards. The Board is precluded from joining a testing consortium comprised of multiple states that requires the Board to adopt common standards in science and social studies, unless the Board gives notice to the Education Committees of both the House and Senate sixty (60) days prior to joining. Additionally, the Board must post a notice on its web site of its intent to join such a consortium sixty (60) days prior to joining.
Establishes criteria for the collection of certain student data and adoption of educational standards. Data collected from the use of the standards, or from testing under the standards, must be used strictly for the purpose of tracking students’ academic progress. The Board must take the following steps to ensure transparency around the process of collecting student data: (1) create and publish a data inventory and index of data elements with definitions of individual student data fields; (2) develop and publish policies and procedures to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and other relevant privacy laws; (3) develop a detailed security plan; (4) ensure compliance by the Department of Education with FERPA, other relevant privacy laws and policies, and the privacy and security policies and procedures enacted in accordance with this law; (5) ensure that any contracts that govern databases, assessments, or instructional supports that include student or de-identified data, and are outsourced to private vendors, include express provisions that safeguard privacy and security; (6) notify the Governor and the General Assembly within sixty (60) days, of any new data fields are added to the student data system, if changes to the existing data system are needed, if any security audits have been performed, etc.
The Department of Education is required to develop a model student records policy for LEAs by December 31, 2014. The policy will require LEAs to: (1) annually notify parents and guardians of their right to request student information; (2) ensure security when providing student data to parents; (3) ensure that data is provided only to authorized individuals; (4) Set the timeframe in which record requests must be provided; and (5) consider a plan to allow parents to view online, download, and transmit data specific to their children’s educational records. An LEA may either adopt the Department’s model policy or develop its own. However, if an LEA elects to develop its own student records policy, the LEA is required to submit the policy to the Department for approval. LEAs must have a policy in place by the 2015-2016 school year.
LEAs and schools are precluded from collecting individual student data on (1) political affiliation; (2) religion; (3) voting history; and (4) firearms ownership. State agencies and educational institutions must obtain written consent from parents, before collecting any individual student biometric data, student data relative to analysis of facial expressions, EEG brain wave patterns, skin conductance, galvanic skin response, heart-rate variability, pulse, blood volume, posture, and eye- tracking. State agencies and educational institutions are restricted from applying or accepting grants that require the collection or reporting of such data. Additionally, no state or national student assessment that requires the collection or reporting of such data can be administered in Tennessee.
In lieu of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”) assessment, the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (“TCAP”) will be administered in the subjects of English and math in grades 3-11 during the 2014-2015 school year. Prior to that school year, the Department of Education, in consultation with the Comptroller, must issue a Request For Proposals (“RFP”) to provide a standards-aligned assessment. This assessment will be administered during the 2015-2016 school year. By December 31, 2014, the Fiscal Review Committee must review all contracts awarded pursuant to the RFP. The committee must also report to both the House and Senate Education Committees on the terms of the contract.
STAND’S POSITION: Oppose
FINAL DISPOSITION: Senate passed, 28-0. House passed 84-8.