- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Jan. 12

The Tennessean, Nashville, Tenn., on packing public dollars off to private school:

Legislation to allow referendums on wine sales in grocery stores may be the toast of the General Assembly session that will convene this week, but education reform is most likely to be the main course.

A whole slate of bills attempting to alter the landscape inhabited by children in grades K-12 will be forwarded. The minds of the kids are just part of what’s at stake. As a Tennessean report last week detailed, there also are hundreds of thousands of dollars in political-action money in play, as out-of-state reform advocates see opportunity in a legislature controlled by a conservative supermajority.

Reformers also are gravitating to Tennessee because of its surprising National Assessment of Education Program test results last fall, with student scores that seem to validate the direction of educational change.

Most of the legislation is about allowing more school choice to students and their families. And just as some proposals in past years held great promise, others just don’t pass the smell test. An example of the former is the orderly expansion of charter schools that augment public schools; an example of the latter: vouchers.

Gov. Bill Haslam last year floated a limited plan for vouchers that he felt compelled to withdraw when lawmakers in his own party thought the plan did not go far enough to shift public taxpayer dollars to be spent on children attending private schools.

Haslam’s version at least sought to impose some restraints on vouchers by making them available only to kids from families of four earning $43,000 a year or less. Senate Republicans wanted to raise that threshold to $75,000; at which point the altruistic purpose of vouchers becomes moot, and you are just looking at a way to bleed public schools dry.

But even the governor’s plan lacks a reliable model to look to for guidance. Vouchers are not working in the way they are supposed to work.

Vouchers are not the answer to Tennessee’s education challenges. They are a diversion from the real work that needs to be done, setting higher standards for public schools throughout the state.




Jan. 13

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