Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander guided Kentucky Senator Rand Paul around a Nashville charter school Monday.
After handling questions about a possible endorsement for Alexander, the two Washington lawmakers joined several top state officials in spending more than an hour hearing from students, parents and administrators at KIPP Academy
“I don't know that charter schools are the answers, but they may be part of the answer, and it sounds like there a lot of good things are going on,” said the Kentucky Senator who comes from a state without provisions for charters like Tennessee has. “We are here to learn things from the Tennessee experience”
Alexander began by saying, “I have always thought of charters schools as more freedom as more freedom for teachers and more freedom for students.”
Among those the group heard from was KIPP graduate TeAndrea Jackson who is headed to Boston University.
“I knew that all the extra hours, Saturday school and the extended school days was worth it,” she told a roundtable assembled for the two senators.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman noted that charters in Tennessee have grown from about 20 in 2009 to an expected 100 in 2015.
“When we empower parents with decision making closest to the parent, we just get better results,” added the commissioner.
One of the KIPP parents was Victoria Hayes who has had five children at the Knight Road school.
She detailed the thorny question of how to get parents involved in programs like KIPP.
“KIPP set down with me with a contract and in that contract explained my responsibility as a parent,” she told the group.
Rand Paul said he can take a lot back to Kentucky where charters have been traditionally questioned by teacher groups and school administrators.
But among this group, there was not a single representative from Metro Nashville Schools.
Last year the system was fined more than three million dollars for defying a state order to approve a charter called Great Hearts.