Oct 27, 2021 - Politics

State takeover bill is coming back

Illustration of an apple on a block with a hand holding a gavel hovering over it.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

State Rep. Scott Cepicky plans to once again push legislation to give the education commissioner broad powers to take over a struggling school district, the Republican lawmaker tells Axios.

Why it matters: Cepicky's bill cleared one House subcommittee earlier this year, but he declined to push it before the legislative session ended. Cepicky says he is determined to pass the bill next year.

  • "We want the locals to fix things themselves," Cepicky said. "But there reaches a point where we have an obligation to those students."

State of play: Cepicky's bill would give the education commissioner power to assume leadership of a district for up to five years before it would revert back to local control, including the ability to hire a superintendent and appoint trustees to act as school board members.

  • He says the takeover provision would be triggered by "historical data" such as comptroller audits and student achievement data.
  • Cepicky says his bill is not just aimed at Nashville or Shelby County, and that there are other districts that need to show improvement quickly.

The other side: Nashville school board member Rachael Anne Elrod bashed Cepicky's legislation for undermining local control and relying on standardized test scores to trigger the takeover.

  • Pointing to the Achievement School District — a state program to convert the lowest-performing schools into charter schools in hopes of dramatic turnarounds — Elrod says the state has a bad track record in fixing schools.
  • "They have shown that they do not understand the complexities of urban, metropolitan schools," she adds.

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