Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Teachers' Union Questions Haslam's Commitment to Public Education

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 3:14 PM

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The state’s teachers’ union is throwing barbs at Gov. Bill Haslam today for proposing a school voucher program. The only surprise is that the Tennessee Education Association waited to launch its attack until the day after the governor announced his plan in his State of the State speech.

“Gov. Haslam spoke emphatically about his commitment to public education. Then his next point was about taking money from our public schools to give to private schools. To me, that sends a very mixed message,” TEA President Gera Summerford said, pointing out there is no evidence vouchers have worked anywhere in the country.

Haslam himself is having a little trouble explaining what he’s trying to accomplish with vouchers. Last summer, when the governor supposedly remained undecided about vouchers, he insisted to reporters that he’d propose a program only if he found proof that it would help children learn.

“What I think we have to be convinced of is that it’ll make enough difference, that we’re not just kind of working on incremental difference,” he said then.

Today, he seemed to be saying he’s willing to take a flyer on vouchers just for the hell of it.

“Let’s grow into this and see what happens,” he said.

Haslam wants to limit vouchers to children receiving federally subsidized lunches at schools performing in the bottom 5 percent of the state. In Nashville, that’s nearly all the children in five schools. But not for long will such a small program placate GOP ideologues who are bent on privatizing the state’s public school system.

Here's the full statement from the TEA's Summerford:

“School voucher programs divert critical funding from public schools. Tennessee public schools have among the top graduation rates in the country and, at the same time, one of the lowest rates of funding per student, thereby demonstrating their efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars. On the other hand, school voucher programs in other states have wasted taxpayer money by supporting substandard and unaccredited programs due to inadequate oversight. No credible study or research has ever proven the effectiveness of school vouchers or demonstrated any improvement in student achievement over public schools.

“In addition to the financial drain, school vouchers leave many students behind — including those with greatest need — because vouchers divert tax dollars to private entities that are not required to accept all students nor offer the special services students may need. In the more than 50 years since school vouchers were first proposed, vouchers still remain controversial, unproven and unpopular.

“We applaud the governor’s continued effort to direct more money to public schools, but let’s not take one step forward and two steps back. It is not the taxpayer’s job to support private entities. Let’s keep public money in public schools, supporting initiatives like the governor’s proposal to update technology and improve school safety."

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