Charter School and Virtual School Legislation take the spotlight this week
Nashville, TN – Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) will propose an amendment to House Bill 0151/Senate Bill 0157 proposed by the Department of Education regarding virtual schools.
The administration’s proposal to address poorly performing virtual schools will allow the Department of Education to institute enrollment caps, or direct the local school district to close the virtual school if it fails to achieve certain student growth benchmarks two academic years in a row.
“I support virtual education that is under the strict supervision of a local school district,” said Pitts. “The administration’s proposal does not go far enough. Our proposed amendment will put a virtual school on notice that if they fail to meet expectations of student achievement each year, they are subject to enrollment caps for the following academic year.”
During testimony last Tuesday before the House Education subcommittee, Rep. Pitts questioned the Department of Education about the administration’s proposal. That testimony revealed that the timing of the state’s report (every two years) on school performance could allow a failing virtual school to be in operation for up to four years before the state could institute caps on enrollment or exercise the option of closing the school.
“Four years of failure is unconscionable, and should not be allowed,” said Pitts. “If we are serious about helping students in failing schools, let’s put some teeth into the law giving the state the authority to act immediately.”
Also in the Education subcommittee, House Bill 0702/Senate Bill 0830 was reviewed. This legislation gives the Tennessee Board of Education the authority to authorize a charter school in Nashville/Davidson County and Shelby County only. The law would bypass the local school board to allow an appointed governing board to approve charter school applications that use local tax dollars for their operations.
“I questioned why the legislation would only apply to Nashville and Memphis communities, especially when neither of these communities has formally asked for this proposal,” Pitts said. “I voted against this legislation and will continue to voice my concern in the full House Education Committee scheduled on Tuesday,” said Pitts.
First, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam mentioned his intent to enhance our technical education system in his State of the State address last month, and now President Barack Obama embraced the same idea in his State of the Union address earlier this week.
In addition, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) has a very successful career and technical education program in every high school. APSU already has a strategy in place to address these burgeoning fields with education programs that work with existing partners at Nashville State, the Technology Center and CMCSS.
Job Fairs in Clarksville
On Friday, February 15th, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development held a job fair for employees affected by the recent lay-offs at Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation (HSC).
“Upon learning of the planned lay offs at HSC, I immediately contacted the department to see what the state of Tennessee could do to help these employees,” Pitts stated. “I learned that the Department of Labor and Workforce Development was already at work planning a job fair. I visited the job fair site on Friday and thirteen employers were actively engaged with a room full of employees discussing immediate openings in their companies. It was very encouraging.”
The department also had Unemployment Insurance Specialists available to answer questions about unemployment insurance benefits. “I personally want to thank Sterling van der Spuy, Melinda Williams, and Wayne Simpson of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development for the countless hours they spent on this very important issue for Clarksville,” Pitts said.
Employers across the region will be available to discuss career opportunities in STEM fields. Bring your resume and wear your business casual attire. There will also be a preparatory workshop on February 18th. For more information, contact Lisa Sullivan at or 931.221.7628.
Another job fair is also planned for later this spring targeting companies looking to hire high school and college aged students for summer and/or school year employment. The response to the project has been very positive and more details about this student job fair will be released in the coming weeks.