A new bill has been passed by the Tennessee General Assembly to keep lower-tier schools in local hands rather than the state taking control of the building.
According to State Rep. Mark Cochran (R-Englewood), this project has been worked on for many years.
“Basically it is a new program that we want to try to see if we can prevent state takeover of low performing schools,” Cochran said. “When you are in one of the lowest achieving schools you are considered a priority school. Once you have been on the priority list for a certain amount of time you will be put into what’s called the Achievement School District and essentially what that means is the state comes in and takes over that school.”
Cochran noted that the current set up, mentioned above, has not yielded good results.
“I don’t think it is ever a good thing for a local school to be run out of Nashville,” Cochran noted.
“So this program, which is a four year pilot program, will take five of the priority schools that have entered the Achievement School District and pair them with a school turnaround expert to come up with a plan to shape things up.”
He noted the schools would have a year to develop the school turnaround plan after meeting with the experts.
“The state is funding this program entirely so the five schools won’t have to,” Cochran stated. “These turnaround experts have had great success in other states, so the important thing is that these five schools find experts that have had success with other schools with a similar background.”
Cochran believes this bill will “keep the locals in charge of their school” instead of having the state take over.
“The bill has passed with overwhelming bipartisan support,” he said. “I think the big reason for that is because those representatives and senators who have had schools go into the Achievement School District have really disliked that, so they wanted to try something different.”
Cochran expressed in interest in advocating for local control over schools rather than the state stepping in.
“This is a pay-for-performance, so if any vendor is unable to improve the school’s performance then they are not getting paid for their full amount,” Cochran stated. “There will be basic marketing principles put into play to see if they can perform effectively.”
Two versions of the bill worked their way through the general assembly, as Cochran sponsored the House version of the bill and State Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) led the way with the Senate version.
Haile’s bill was originally introduced in January and Cochran followed with his version in February. Eventually, the two versions were folded into the Senate bill and it passed the House 21-12 and the Senate 21-9.
The bill was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee on May 27.