Property Value Among School Bills Board is Examining

On January 30, 2012, in News 2012, by Mark Norris

By Bill Dries, MemphisDailyNews.comJanuary 30, 2012

If a charter school rents or buys an existing public school building in Tennessee, it would have to be at fair market value under one of numerous charter school bills expected to be filed in the Tennessee Legislature this year.
 
Members of the countywide school board will consider supporting such a bill Tuesday, Jan. 31, when they vote on the set of bills and legislative proposals they will back and oppose this year in Nashville.
 
Fair market value for school buildings has been a key point in the discussion about the formation of suburban municipal school districts in the county outside Memphis. Five of Shelby County’s six suburban towns and cities are weighing separate reports from Southern Educational Strategies LLC.
 
Each report concludes existing public school buildings in each municipality should be transferred by the county to a municipal school district at no cost to such a school district. The conclusion is based on an absence of any specific guidelines that deal with such a school district formation but on past court cases involving the transfer of school buildings and other public facilities when a city annexes territory.
 
Of the 21 charter schools in the Memphis City Schools system, one – KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle School – is housed in what was once Caldwell Elementary School in North Memphis. The school was vacated when MCS officials merged its students into nearby Guthrie Elementary School. KIPP Memphis Collegiate High School also opened at the old Caldwell Elementary this fall with a ninth grade class.
 
Some of the charter schools legislation is coming from the Shelby County delegation to Nashville.
 
Democratic state Rep. Barbara Cooper and Democratic state Sen. Ophelia Ford filed a bill Jan. 26 to “make revisions to the Tennessee Public Charter School Act.”
 
So far there is no further description of the bill on the Tennessee General Assembly’s website.
 
Meanwhile, there has been a breather on legislation on another front dealing with school property.
 
Republican state Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville had put his bill on hold, which would have required the transfer of school buildings at no cost to a municipal school district like the ones the suburban governments are considering. Republican state Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville called for the delay, saying he wants the schools consolidation planning commission and school board to make a decision on the issue soon – before the end of the current legislative session.
 
The school board’s legislative package of 17 suggestions or positions has nine that deal specifically with charter schools and another three that address the state’s Achievement School District.
 
They include opposition to any state-funded startup funds that might be set aside for charter schools, no for-profit charter schools and opposition to any attempt to eliminate financial hardship as a reason by which school boards may reject charter applications.
 
The countywide school board rejected more than a dozen charter school applications late last year, specifically citing financial hardship to each school district – city and county. The rejection is now being decided by state officials in Nashville.
 
The legislative packet also seeks to clarify whether a takeover of an existing public school as a state-run charter school in the Achievement School District is a takeover of the school building as well.
 
Meanwhile, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration hopes to hear this week from Obama administration officials judging whether Tennessee will get a waiver from Bush-era No Child Left Behind standards for school achievement. In the waiver, the Haslam administration seeks to replace those standards with another set that includes the Achievement School District targeting the lowest 5 percent of Tennessee schools in terms of state achievement testing scores.
 
Of those 85 schools, 69 are in the Memphis City Schools system. Of the 36 schools in the ASD at the outset, 16 are MCS schools.

 

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