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With Mayor Karl Dean lobbying for it, the Senate voted 22-7 this morning to expand charter schools in Tennessee. Under the bill, which escaped a House subcommittee yesterday
, nearly three-quarters of Nashville's students would become eligible to attend charter schools. Under present law, only failing students or students who attend failing schools are eligible, along with a limited number of at-risk kids in grades K-3.
Dean says the city's failing system could use a couple dozen charter schools, but present law hinders Nashville's ability to recruit nonprofit companies to run them.
"We cannot be afraid to innovate," Dean told a legislative committee last week
. "We need it. I'm asking you as a mayor of a city that's in this position, give us this tool. We need this tool."
The state's teachers' union is fighting this bill. The union argues charter schools will cherry-pick students, saddling regular schools with less funding and the worst kids.