- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A bill seeking to make it easier for parents to convert struggling public schools into charter schools failed in a House subcommittee on Tuesday even though its sponsor says it’s another tool to reform education in Tennessee.

The measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis died when it failed to receive a motion in the House Finance Subcommittee.

The so-called parent trigger legislation - which also failed last year - had advanced out of the House Education Committee earlier this month on a 9-4 vote, and the companion bill had been awaiting a vote in the full Senate.

Currently in Tennessee, there is a statute that would allow 60 percent of parents to petition for a change to be made at a school.

Under the failed proposal, if 51 percent of parents at a school in the bottom 10 percent of failing schools believe a drastic change is needed, they could select from several “turnaround models,” including a conversion to a charter school or changing the administrators.

“This is something that we did as part of our education reform,” said DeBerry, who was visibly upset when he didn’t receive a motion, and walked briskly out of the committee room.

Tennessee has been lauded nationally for reforms that include tougher curriculum and stricter teacher evaluations.

DeBerry said his proposal gives parents a say-so at the table and another option to better educate their children.

“When we started education reform we said that we were going to do things differently and outside the box,” he said. “Parent trigger is one of those initiatives.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell said she’s surprised the legislation failed.

“I certainly understand when parents feel trapped in a school that’s failing,” said the Nashville Republican. “They should have the ability to ask for something different for their children.”

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