SCS board approves, and denies some requests for charter school expansion

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — After hours of discussion, the Shelby County school board approved enrollment expansion for several charter schools in the district.

This comes as the board started enforcing a new policy requiring charter school leaders to submit requests to change their contract agreements. For example, the charter school operations need approval if they to add another grade level or increase enrollment by 100 more students.

District staff said these schools must be in good academic standing in order to grow.

But some charter school operations says they’re still adapting to the new policies.

“In July we got a letter saying we need to have a petition. That has never happened before. It’s not as though we wanted to break the law, it’s the [was the] way we’ve done it before,” said Anthony Anderson, founder of the Memphis Business Academy Network.

Anderson’s network has several charter schools in Frayser. He had five expansion requests up for review. The ones for the Memphis Business Academy Hickory Hill Elementary and Memphis STEM Academy were denied.

“I think we’re trying to find answers for school choice for parents and this is very difficult for us and for the board of education because those of us who have been doing this for a long time for the movement in Memphis, we have just been trying to forward. I don’t think we intentionally broke any laws, we just moved forward,” said Anderson.

But since these policies are in place, some board members say charter school operators need to follow them.

“And if this institution, this network of charter schools which has been here specifically for a long time whether or not they receive that notice or not, I think it’s incumbent on the charter school operators as well to do their own due diligence, read their contracts and adhere to their contracts and you know when updates are made to read them,” said Michelle McKissack, SCS school board member.

Just last week, the school board approved its legislative agenda which includes urging the TN General Assembly to place a moratorium on new charter schools until the state can study and evaluate the effectiveness of them.