Charter schools are public schools operated by independent nonprofit governing bodies
that are authorized by one of the following three entities in Tennessee: local boards
of education, the Achievement School District (ASD), or the State Board of Education
(SBOE). The majority of charters in Tennessee are authorized by local boards of
As of the 2017-18 school year, 85 charter schools operate in four Tennessee school districts: Hamilton County Schools (4), Knox County Schools (1), Metro Nashville Public Schools (29), and Shelby County Schools (51). In addition, there are 27 charter schools operating under the ASD and one operating under the SBOE.
Charter schools must meet the same academic performance standards as traditional public schools, but
have greater autonomy in areas such as personnel and salary policies, curriculum and instruction methods,
and financial decisions. In exchange for more autonomy, charter schools face a heightened level of accountability.
A public charter school must be closed if the Tennessee Department of Education has designated it as
a priority school, with academic achievement in the bottom 5 percent in the state. A charter school may be closed if it demonstrates poor academic performance,
violates the charter agreement, or fails to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management.
Tennessee law allows for the creation of new charter schools and the conversion of traditional public schools
into charter schools. State law prohibits virtual charter schools and the management or operation of
charter schools by for-profit corporations.
Eligibility to attend a charter school
If a charter school is authorized by a district, any student who resides within the district may attend
the charter school. If applications to the charter school exceed the number of seats available, a lottery
shall determine which students attend. Charter schools may also enroll students from other school districts
in accordance with their district's out-of-district enrollment policy.
If an existing public school is converted to a charter school, the conversion charter
school serves the students zoned to attend the school prior to conversion, but parents
have the option to enroll their child in another public school without penalty.
Charter schools in the ASD must accept students who are either zoned to attend or enrolled in a school
that is eligible to be placed in the ASD. If capacity remains after admitting all students within the
zone, the children of a teacher, staff member, sponsor, or member of the governing body, as well as
students who failed to test proficient on the statewide assessment or who are eligible for free or reduced
price meals, may enroll in the ASD school. However, no school’s enrollment of such students can exceed
25 percent of the school’s total enrollment.
Funding for charter schools
State law requires that local boards of education allocate to charter schools an
amount equal to the school district's per-student state and local funding,
including funds that exceed the BEP local match requirement (with the exception
of local funds designated for debt obligations and associated debt service). Charter
schools in the ASD receive the same funding as charter schools authorized by the
local board of education (i.e., an ASD charter school in Memphis receives the same
per-student allocation as a charter school authorized by Shelby County Schools).
Charter schools are entitled to all applicable federal dollars, including Title
I and other Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funds.
Return to Top
- Achievement School District (ASD)
- average daily membership (ADM)
- Basic Education Program (BEP)
- capital outlay
- charter school authorizer
- Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
- local match
- priority school
- school board
- Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act