All 14 groups seeking to start or expand charter schools in Memphis in 2018 are getting an early icy reception from Shelby County Schools.
District administrators recommended Friday that all their applications be denied, and the school board is expected to agree when it votes on the matter later this month.
But that’s fairly common for a first vote on charter applications — and not the end of the road for this year’s crop of applicants. They would have 30 days to amend their applications before the board’s second vote in August.
Last year, the school board initially denied 11 of 13 applications and ultimately approved seven in all.
The recommendations will be discussed at next week’s school board work session.
District leaders cited unclear academic plans, missing budget documents, and sloppy writing in several applications. Other proposals need more evidence that their plans are backed by research. Fewer concerns were cited on two applications — by Believe Memphis Academy and Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter School.
“The biggest issue is to make sure the proper questions have been raised and the proper guidance has been given for the applications so we can move forward with bringing in high-quality charter schools to the district,” said Luther Mercer, Memphis advocacy director for the Tennessee Charter School Center.
The recommendations come as the office overseeing the district’s charter sector is in transition and seeking to bolster its accountability, which a national consultant said is lacking. This spring, the district hired former Indianapolis charter school principal Daphné Robinson as its new director, and she has been building her team from the ground up.
Groups vying for approval this year want to open schools that range from an all-girls program to a sports academy to several focused on science, technology, engineering and math. All but one operator are locally based, and two are trying again after being turned down last year. Half already run charter schools through the Memphis district.
In this year’s call for applications, the district invited operators to help Tennessee’s largest school system meet its Destination 2025 goals to boost early literacy and prepare students for either college or career.
Charters in Memphis have grown steadily since Tennessee lawmakers voted in 2002 to open the door to privately managed public schools.
Shelby County Schools already oversees 45 charter schools that educate about 12 percent of its students, many of whom are black and live in poverty.