Traditionally, few make cut and divert funding
If every group hoping to open a charter school here next fall is approved, about 1,500 children — and the tax dollars that support them — will move away from the city schools.
The Memphis City Schools board has received 14 charter applications, predominantly from grass-roots organizations, including faith groups, that want to be in the school business.
The school board will vote Nov. 22. If history is any example, one-quarter to one-third will ultimately be approved.
Memphis already has more charter schools than any city in the state. Its 22 charter schools enroll 6,570 students, or about 15 percent of the city school population.
“It’s a misconception to think you have to be affiliated with a major group to turn out a quality application,” said Charisse Sales, coordinator of the city schools charter school office.
Four applicants are applying for expansions — KIPP Memphis, Memphis Business Academy, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, and Power Center Community Development Corp.
Seven are new, and the rest, including 4U Foundation Inc., are trying again after being rejected last year.
“We brought in consultants from Vanderbilt and CPAs to look at our application,” said Van Snyder, spokesman for 4U Foundation, which intends to open a K-8 boys school focused on international business.
The foundation formed in 1996 to offer free algebra tutoring to students in Orange Mound who couldn’t pass the TCAP achievement test.
“I called friends. They called friends,” said Snyder. “We got grants from Pfizer, Cummings, Greater Memphis Arts Council and Tennessee Arts Council to help us provide workshops and weekly tutoring.”
Last year, 4U scored 71.5 out of 100 points on its application, losing points for lacking detailed education and business plans.
“We worked on the budget and the curriculum portion to make a stronger case for what we want to do with these boys,” Snyder said.
The city school board rejects most applications in the first round. The applicants have 15 days to resubmit.
The school board has another 15 days to respond.
Any applicant that doesn’t make the cut the second time has 10 days to appeal to the state board of education, which is the final arbiter.
4U appealed to the state last year. The state agreed with the school board that the application was not sound.
KIPP Memphis is the only local charter run by a national group. It is applying to run a collegiate-level high school with room for 400 students by 2014.
Combined with the 13 other applications, enrollment could be 4,678 by 2014 among this year’s applicants.
Some members of the school board say charters are already draining resources from traditional public schools.
Board member Kenneth Whalum disagrees. “The word ‘traditional’ is suspect because ‘traditionally’ the poor are vastly, and almost criminally, underserved by ‘traditionalism’ in education,” he said by e-mail, adding that charters should be viewed as public schools.
SOURCE: Memphis Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/nov/11/mcs-board-sorts-14-charter-applicants/