NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Board of Education approved plans for a new charter school in the fastest growing area of Nashville, Antioch, despite opposition from the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education and the superintendent of schools.
“We have development going up everywhere, and of course, it makes you a little nervous as a school board member when you see more construction and less schools,” Anitioch-area school board member Fran Bush told News 2.
Both Antioch High School and Cane Ridge High School are currently at capacity.
“I have to make a decision because I’m growing so fast and unfortunately, MNPS is not building schools fast enough for me,” Bush explained.
Bush said that’s why she lobbied for the approval of a new charter school, KIPP Antioch College Prep High School. KIPP already has several schools in Nashville and one K-8 school in Antioch with more than 650 students on the waiting list right now.
“They have such a huge waiting list that it basically tells a story of what parents want, right?” Bush said. “So they are saying this is such a great school in our community, they’re doing great, our students are thriving academically, they’re doing what they need to have college access right? So, it was a no-brainer.”
However, Bush was the only board member that voted for the school in July. The other eight opposed, citing concerns over charter school students receiving district funding first, and the leftover money is distributed between public schools.
The vote was appealed to the Tennessee Board of Education and approved Monday.
MNPS Superintendent Adrienne Battle shared this statement with News 2:
“I’m disappointed that the State Board of Education has chosen to approve their applications against the recommendations of our Board – a decision that will further reduce funding for our traditional public schools here at MNPS.”
Bush rebutted that the benefit of a charter school is that they often fund everything else on their own, such as building the school.
“We give them per pupil, they come up with other funding means as far as building out,” Bush said. “What we’ve seen with Randy Dowell with KIPP is he funds a lot of his projects, so he doesn’t really come to ask for additional of course, but he does opportunities to fund his own.”
TBOE said in a statement “members of the Board heard presentations from State Board staff regarding the merits and weaknesses of each appeal. Prior to the meeting, members of the State Board had access to the executive director’s reports on each appeal, as well as the findings reports from each appeal’s independent review committee and all additional documentation collected as part of the State Board’s appeal process.”
A KIPP spokesperson said they’re grateful for the approval.
“This decision allows our current sixth graders to be able to continue their education with KIPP Nashville once they are ready for ninth grade and creates another high-quality high school option for families in the Antioch community.”
The KIPP Antioch College Prep high school is set to open in 2023.
Two other Nashville-area charter schools were appealed, one of which was also approved by the state Monday. Nashville Collegiate Prep is set to open in 2021.
When asked what their plans were for growth and capacity issues in Antioch, MNPS provided this statement:
“MNPS has plans in place to expand the capacity for enrollment in the Cane Ridge cluster, which should meet the needs of students if the capital plans are funded by Metro Government. We are in the process of purchasing land for a new middle school, with additional funding for the construction of the middle school, and expansion of Cane Ridge High School, included in the Capital Improvements Budget.”
News 2 also asked the Tennessee Charter School Center to weigh in. CEO Maya Bugg sent the following statement:
“The decision made by the review committee and members of the State Board demonstrates their focus on putting students first. The applications approved by the State Board of Education on Monday represent opportunities for access to innovative, high-quality educational options for underserved communities and a chance to increase equity in public education.
Evaluation of applications on appeal by an independent body such as the State Board of Education allows a step back from local politics or unproductive rhetoric that may impact decisions. This helps to ensure decisions are made by considering the best interests of students and families above all else, with the goal of excellent educational options for all.”
The TBOE has affirmed the local board’s decisions 73% of the time, only overturning the local board decision in 27% of cases since 2014 when the appeal process was enacted.
A history of charter new start appeal decisions going back to 2003 is available on the State Board of Education website.