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VOL. 36 | NO. 50 | Friday, December 14, 2012

Nashville business group backing charter schools

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NASHVILLE (AP) — A Nashville business group has put a priority on advocating for charter schools.

According to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/ZDph4r), the Greater Nashville Chamber of Commerce said in its 2012 Education Report Card that the Metro Nashville Board of Education should put in place a comprehensive strategy for integrating charter schools into the district.

Chamber officials discussed the report with the editorial board of the newspaper prior to its release Monday.

"We can go from chaos to order if we do it the right away," said Ron Corbin, a principal at RBBC Holdings, co-chairman of the chamber's 25-member education report card committee. "We've just got to move the needle a lot quicker."

The chamber cited a poll taken in May, saying respondents favor school choice in the form of charters.

"We really saw this as a timely issue with some urgency around it," said Stephanie Coleman, chamber vice president of policy.

The report was the 20th by the business group on local education. In the current report card, the chamber also addresses the Tennessee General Assembly, urging lawmakers to change state law to force the closure of any charter schools that drop into the bottom 5 percent in academic performance.

Stephanie Coleman, the chamber's vice president of policy, said the issue of charter schools needs to be addressed.

"We really saw this as a timely issue with some urgency around it," Coleman said.

In the next academic year, 19 charter schools are scheduled to be open in Nashville. All but four will be new since 2009.

The issue of charter school resurfaced after Phoenix-based Great Hearts Academies said it wanted to open a West Nashville school and some feared it would cater to affluent, white families.

The Metro school board defied a state order and denied Great Hearts' application — a decision that cost the local schools $3.4 million in withheld state funding.

Chamber officials said academic improvement isn't coming fast enough.

"We need to see some dramatic gains," said Todd Vandawater, vice president of Fifth Third Bank and committee co-chairman.