TN Charter Law removes cap and enrollment restrictions

In a move that most certainly will transform the public education landscape in Tennessee, the TN State Legislature voted last week to:

1. Remove the cap on the amount of charter schools in TN. Currently the cap is 90 statewide.

2. Remove any restrictions on enrollment. Currently, restrictions on enrollment limit the pool of charter school-eligible students to failing students, students from failing schools and students from lower-income families.

The potential ramifications are enormous… not only for the unions and traditional district schools (MCS) but also for local private schools.


Since charters are staffed with non-union teachers, the growth in charter schools and their staff (and their potential success) pose a challenge to the the existing norm in Tennessee education.

Memphis City Schools-

MCS will certainly be impacted as more charter schools are created and are eligible to enroll a larger pool of city students. Since public funding follows the students, declining enrollment in traditional MCS schools reduces the funding to MCS. Free and open enrollment very much makes the business of public education a competitive “open” market for students and the corresponding funding implications.

Local Private Schools-

The opportunity for charter schools to recruit and enroll all students (including wealthy and/ or academically high achieving students) will put a tremendous pressure on private schools. For example, a charter school could open in an affluent neighborhood, adopt a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and actively recruit students from the surrounding area. A private school environment could be recreated and offered at no cost to all families.


While unions and schools (traditional and private) should be concerned with how to navigate this new landscape, it appears the big winners will be the children in Tennessee.

See below for the press release from the Nashville Tennessean:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to remove the cap on charter schools is headed to his desk.

The measure by Republican Sen. Jamie Woodson of Knoxville passed the Senate 22-9 Friday night after the House version was approved 72-18.

Charter schools are funded with state and local tax dollars but don’t have to meet some of the state regulations that traditional public schools do as they try to find different ways to improve student learning.

Under current law, the number of charter schools is capped at 90 statewide. There are currently 40 in all: 25 in Memphis, 10 in Nashville, three in Hamilton County and one each in Knoxville and Shelby County.

Besides removing the cap, the legislation also allows any student in the charter school’s jurisdiction to attend.