Parents consider school takeover through Trigger Law

Parents consider school takeover through Trigger Law (Image 1)

West Nashville parents and teachers could soon pull the trigger on another charter school option.

Charter schools are financed with tax dollars but privately operated by non-profit groups. Under state law, those groups can be parent-lead if the school is converted from a public to a charter school.

Giving power to parents, allowing them to push for conversion of an established school, is commonly referred to as the Parent Trigger Law.

Metro Council Member Emily Evans has been researching the idea for several years.

“A parent trigger allows you to retain everything that's good about your school, the teachers, the students, the diversity, all of that, while shedding some of the rules,” Evans said.

Evans feels strongly that her district, which includes Belle Meade, West Meade and Hillwood, needs more choices and fewer new charter schools.

“The people that live right next to our schools in this, my district, aren't particularly comfortable sending their children there, which is not how it's supposed to work,” Evans said.

She added, “I do not think the approach that we take with Great Hearts and with other charters, we're essentially siphoning money off of the system, is the right way to go.”

Earlier this week, Metro Nashville Public Schools were stripped of $3.4 million in state funding after defying a state order and refusing Great Hearts Charter School application. Many board members were concerned about diversity and transportation for the new school.

Evans likes the benefits of a charter school, but not at the expense of other schools already established in the district.

“I'm not in agreement with creating a parallel charter school universe, if you will, which is what we've been doing; because it's so bad for our budget. It drains off resources and creates this parallel redundant system,” she said.

Under Tennessee's Parent Trigger Law, a parent-initiated charter school must go through the same process as any other charter school, except 60% of parents or teachers must sign a petition to get the process started, the Metro School Board must approve the application, and there is no appeal process for rejected applications.

The use of similar Parent Trigger Laws has been recently debated in New York and California.

Metro parents are invited to attend two meetings to discuss local use of the Parent Trigger Law.

A meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, October 1, at Hillwood High School library. The meeting will cover advanced academic options available to students.

Another meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 15.

Representatives with Metro Nashville Public Schools and the state Department of Education will go before the Metro Council Education Committee to answer questions about the Parent Trigger Law.

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