TEA: Haslam Voucher Agenda Sends ‘Mixed Message’

Press release from the Tennessee Education Association; January 29, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In his “State of the State” speech last night before Tennessee’s General Assembly, Governor Bill Haslam devoted a lot of time to public education, but left the audience with a mixed message on his plans for our schools.

“While I am pleased that the governor devoted such a large portion of his address to public education, it is troubling to see his voucher agenda moving forward,” said Gera Summerford, Sevier County teacher and Tennessee Education Association president. “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.”

“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,” added Summerford.

“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,” the TEA president continued. “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,” Summerford concluded.