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TRA, TN Conservatives Call on Lawmakers to Oppose ‘Commie’ Core

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Assembly; October 29, 2013:

(Nashville, TN October 31, 2013) — The Tennessee Republican Assembly (TRA), along with other conservative leaders across the State of Tennessee, has called for Tennessee legislators to oppose the continued implementation of the Common Core Federal Mandates in Tennessee due to concerns about these Federal standards and specific concerns about $700,000 recently spent to send Tennessee school principals to China to learn teaching methods that will be applied in our local Tennessee schools.

“We are already seeing the negative effects of Common Core Federal Mandates in our schools, and now we will have thinly veiled socialist and communist agendas promoted with Tennessee tax dollars,” noted Sharon Ford, President of the Tennessee Republican Assembly.

Ford cited the recent expenditure of $700,000 in “Race to the Top” money spent through Vanderbilt University to send 18 elementary, junior high and high school principals to China as an example of wasteful spending that is fueling a destructive agenda for Tennessee schools.

“The Chinese Communist system does not value personal freedom and liberty, nor does it promote the free market system that is the backbone of American prosperity,” Ford pointed out. “China is neither as diverse nor as open to creativity and free speech as the U.S. It is not a political or cultural system we should replicate in Tennessee schools. When we see spending like this it underlines how Common Core can be called “Commie Core”.

“We will see more examples of the liberal, anti-American agenda that is at the heart of Common Core Federal Mandates as more classroom assignments and testing materials are examined,” Ford noted. “Tennessee legislators need to follow the money and demand accountability in how our education dollars are spent, particularly when we see our money being used to instill anti-American campaigns in our classrooms.”

Letter to Tennessee General Assembly

Re: Opposition to Common Core Federal Mandates in Tennessee

Dear Members of the Tennessee General Assembly:

The Tennessee Republican Assembly, along with other individuals and groups listed below, are joining with other concerned Tennesseans and national leaders and groups like the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, the California Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, American Family Institute, the Campaign for Liberty, Concerned Women for America, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Rick Perry, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, and others. Notably Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, both Republicans, have already paused implementation of Common Core Federal Mandates in their states and Florida Governor Rick Scott and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal seem prepared to follow their lead.

There are numerous problems with the Common Core Federal Mandates, particularly here in Tennessee. Recently, $700,000 in Tennessee taxes funded through Race to the Top, was spent through Vanderbilt University to send eighteen Tennessee elementary, junior high and high school principals to China to learn how to teach the “Chinese way”. The Chinese Communist system is not one that values personal freedom and liberty, nor does it promote the free market system that is the backbone of American prosperity. China is neither as diverse nor as open to creativity and free speech as the U.S. It is not a system we should replicate in Tennessee. And some people wonder why Common Core is sometimes called Commie Core?

Support for this kind of wasteful spending and potentially harmful education “reform” scheme is simply not acceptable to most Tennesseans and we call on you our Tennessee Legislators to immediately express your opposition to Common Core Federal Mandates in clear and direct terms. This topic will be a top political issue in the next election cycle and we believe that the waste of taxpayer money on promoting the Communist Chinese education system in Tennessee will be something voters will strongly oppose.

Thank you for your service in the Legislature and we hope you will more fully investigate the truth about Common Core Federal Mandates as soon as possible.

Sharon Ford
President, Tennessee Republican Assembly

Ben Cunningham
Nashville Tea Party

Laurie Day
Education Matters

Julie West
President, Parents for Truth in Education

J. Lee Douglas
Founder, 9-12 Project

Brenda Causey
Concerned Women of America

Rachel Welch
Putnam County GOP Chair

Sherrie Orange
Secretary, Freedom PAC

Teachers Warming to In-Class Observations

Tennessee teachers view the state’s new evaluation procedure more favorably now than when implemented, a recent survey from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College suggests.

The study found teachers are more receptive to classroom evaluations when they see them as a tool for improving teaching, not as just a way to judge performance.

“Teachers who viewed the evaluation process as focused on teaching improvement tended to engage with the system to a far greater extent than teachers who saw the process as one aimed only at judging their performance,” said Nate Schwartz, director of the Tennessee Department of Education’s Office of Research and Policy.

The new evaluation system was implemented in 2010 after Tennessee was awarded more than $501 million from the federal government to reform its public education system. Among the reforms adopted as part of the grant were: adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments for students; building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices; and turning around the lowest-performing schools.

The main reform that concerned teachers was a change to teacher tenure laws that ties student performance to classroom evaluations. Since the change to tenure laws, the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development has contracted with the TDOE’s Office of Research and Policy to study teacher opinion on the reforms.

And those opinions look to be changing, according to state education officials.

“Through multiple survey measures (First to the Top being one of them), we have seen that teachers in Tennessee feel that the evaluation system has been implemented with fidelity,” said Kelli Gauthier, communications director of the Tennessee Department of Education.

That faith has translated to a better perception of the state’s teacher evaluation system from both teachers and observers. The most recent study, which asked 26,000 teachers about the First to the Top reforms, suggests both teachers and observers like the teacher evaluation system better in 2013 than in previous years, but half of the teachers surveyed are still unconvinced of the evaluation’s overall value.

But when teachers do find value in the process, they respond more favorably to the current observation system. The value is found in feedback and instructions for improving teaching methods, rather than observers judging their classroom performance, according to the study.

Dan Lawson, the superintendent of Tullahoma City Schools, said most teachers welcome a chance to improve and hope teacher observations are part and parcel of improving learning, rather than quantifying teacher performance.

“Teaching is a complex process integrating relationship building, content knowledge, the craft of instructional delivery and the art of interacting with children. As much as some love the idea of quantifying everything, I fear that such a practice tends to diminish the complexity of my profession,” said Lawson, who has long been critical of Tennessee’s education reform initiatives.

Lawson said the evaluation process was developed as a way to improve teaching quality, but that observations are not “sufficient to identify a quality teacher.” He is also concerned the reforms encourage teaching to the test.

“Teachers may be led to better ‘scores’ on the rubric, but those scores may be negated by a single (student) test score. This challenge leads many to ask a pertinent, but in my mind misplaced question: ‘How do I get my kids to earn higher TCAP scores?’,” he said.

Regardless of how administrators and teachers feel about the evaluation process, Tennessee students have seen growth on state assessments.

“While we attribute that growth to a variety of things, we absolutely believe that Race to the Top initiatives, such as our teacher evaluation system and the extensive professional development we have given to teachers through the grant, played a part,” Gauthier said.

Tennessee has seen three years of growth on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, Gauthier said. She cited more than 20,000 more students are performing at grade-level in math now than in 2010 and “nearly 52,000 additional students are at or above grade level in all science subjects, as compared to 2010.”

Add improving teacher attitudes toward the evaluation to growing TCAP scores and Tennessee’s education system is moving in the right direction, she said.

“Tennessee has been recognized nationally as a leader in improving public education, and in many ways, Race to the Top created the environment for us to accomplish this work, with broad support from a variety of stakeholders,” Gauthier said. “I believe that our results speak for themselves.”

$8M in Race to the Top Funds Granted to Local School Districts

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Education; August 14, 2013:

NASHVILLE— The Tennessee Department of Education announced today it will grant $8 million in state Race to the Top funds to districts that agree to implement specific initiatives that advance the core purpose of Tennessee’s First to the Top plan.

The money will be awarded to 83 districts that have chosen to participate in the First to the Top Scope of Work Supplemental Fund. These districts serve more than half of all students in the state.

In order to opt in to the First to the Top Supplemental Fund, districts chose to implement at least one innovative program or strategy in three categories: Teacher evaluation, implementation of the Common Core State Standards, and student assignment. These areas reflect priorities of the state’s original Race to the Top grant, and the districts’ selections will take effect during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. For a complete list of district options and participating districts, please see the attached overview.

“We felt this Race to the Top money would best serve the students of Tennessee at the district level, and we’re excited to see so many districts take advantage of this opportunity,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “These funds will allow more resources to be spent on these critical areas across the state.”

Participating districts have chosen strategies like conducting the February writing assessments online in grades 3-11, using student surveys to count for 5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation score, and using two observers for at least one of a teacher’s mandatory observations.

Tennessee’s initial $501 million Race to the Top award divided the grant between districts and the state. The $8 million Scope of Work Supplemental Fund comes directly from the state’s Race to the Top portion.

The 2013-14 school year marks the last of the state’s four-year First to the Top grant. Additional information about the First to the Top program is available online here.

For more information, contact Kelli Gauthier at (615) 532-7817 or Kelli.Gauthier@tn.gov.

Details on the Supplemental Fund Overview and Participants can be found here.

TN Pledges $4M in Race to the Top Funds for Leadership Development

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Education; May 6, 2013:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Education has pledged nearly $4 million in Race to the Top funds to pay for eight leadership development programs, which will impact future school leaders in more than 20 districts across the state.

The TN LEAD grants were awarded to organizations in partnership with one or more school systems, to either develop or replicate programs aimed at increasing leader effectiveness and improving student outcomes. The programs will target current and pre-service educators, in order to deepen the pipeline of effective leaders in Tennessee schools.

A key requirement of the grant was to show evidence that the proposed programs were sustainable, said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

“Training educators to be future leaders is one of the most important things we can do to ensure the sustainability of our work,” Huffman said. “Having effective principals and district leaders in place will make sure our efforts to improve education continue to pay off many years down the road.”

There were 20 applicants for the competitive TN LEAD grants. Eight recipients received funds, for a total of about $4 million. The programs target teachers who want to be principals, those who seek a teacher-leader role in their school, as well as district personnel who hope to serve in a school leadership position. The winners represent a wide range of innovative approaches, including university-based programs, a rural collaborative, and a multi-district partnership with top principals in China. The leadership development programs will begin this month and continue through July 2014.

Paul Fleming, the department’s executive director of leadership development, and former principal of Metro Nashville’s Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, said that next to teachers, a highly effective leader is the number one factor that impacts student achievement at a school.

“Principals are the gatekeepers; they either encourage high-quality innovation, or they keep it out. They set the tone for the entire building,” he said. “With some of Tennessee’s important initiatives like the Common Core State Standards, there has never been a more important time to have effective leaders in place.”

Please see the attached document for more information about the eight TN LEAD grant recipients.

Huffman Expects More Schools In State’s Achievement District

The state expects to add 10 or 12 schools next year to its specialized district aimed at helping schools that have fallen behind academically, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said during his department’s state budget hearing this week.

That would bring up to 18 schools operating under the umbrella of the Achievement School District, a state entity that has the power to take over failing schools. Like the schools already in the district, many of those additional schools will be in Memphis. Ten Memphis City schools, all in the bottom 5 percent of Tennessee schools in terms of achievement, were notified this week that they will be taken over by the district, the Commercial Appeal reported Wednesday.

Huffman said schools in the Achievement district are operating with longer days, teaching until 4:30 p.m., and using data more aggressively to drive instruction. Huffman discussed the progress so far.

“I think they feel positive about the direction that they’re going, but it’s hard work,” Huffman said. “And I think everybody who works for the (achievement district) understands the very long path they have to go, because their goal is not to have these schools simply be less bad. They want these schools to be good schools where people want to send their children.”

The district was approved by the Legislature in 2010 as part of the state’s successful efforts to win Race to the Top funding for education reform.

The state won $501 million in that contest sponsored by the Obama administration, and Haslam asked Huffman if education officials are planning for what happens after that money is spent. The deadline is in about 18 months, Huffman said.

“We know that we will have to figure out, there will be some ongoing costs that we’ll need to absorb and make room for those costs because it’s the right thing to do,” Huffman said of planning at the state level. Local districts will have to decide whether to continue funding positions like math coaches created under the Race to the Top initiatives.

“When the money runs out they either need to figure out that this is an ongoing priority that’s worth the investment and therefore they need to spend the money on it and not spend someplace else, or they need to transition out of it,” Huffman said.

Huffman has proposed a 2 percent increase in the state share of his department’s funding, from $4.1 billion in the current year to $4.2 billion in 2013-14, the Tennessean reported.

One of the factors driving that increase is a projected $45 million bump to spending for local schools, Huffman said, based on the state law that proscribes state funding for local schools based on inflation and enrollment.

Ramsey: Education Choice ‘Valid, Valuable, Growing in Popularity’

Op-Ed from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; August 6, 2012: 

Our Republican majority in the state legislature have reached many of our goals these past two years. I’m very proud of our accomplishments. But there is still much left to do. One example is education reform.

Some might find this surprising. After all, Tennessee won the federal government’s Race to the Top Grant because of our willingness to reform. And reform we have. Tennessee has made truly great strides in education in recent years. Not only have we reformed tenure, we removed the monopoly held by Tennessee’s government employee union over our school boards.

Most recently we have implemented a teacher evaluation system where teachers are reviewed, and thus rewarded, based on their excellence.

We have clearly stayed true to my goal of striving to put a great teacher in every classroom. But there is much more to do.

Earlier this month, I saw a public opinion poll which revealed nearly 60 percent of Tennessee voters support opportunity scholarships (or vouchers as they are sometimes called). These scholarships would allow children who were not blessed to be born wealthy to use the money allocated for their education at a school of their choice.

Governor Bill Haslam currently has a task force hard at work on this issue. They continue to deliberate on how opportunity scholarships can be best implemented in Tennessee. I am eager to review their findings and get to work passing a bill that benefits all of Tennessee.

I was proud when, under the leadership of Sen. Brian Kelsey, the Tennessee Senate passed an opportunity scholarship bill in 2011. Unfortunately, the measure failed in the state House. But whether the bill that ultimately passes both houses ends up looking exactly like the one we passed last year, the important thing to realize is that concept of choice is valid, valuable and growing in popularity.

Many of this state’s schools are failing. By the objective criteria we have at our disposal, we now know there are children in certain counties of our state who are not only not getting the education they deserve — they are getting little, if any, quality education at all.

This is a disturbing realization but it is not one we can easily ignore. As I said, one of my primary goals in public service is to make sure every Tennessee student has a great Tennessee teacher. We can spend all the money we want on grand new school buildings, new computers and the latest in educational software but, at the end of the day, it’s good teachers who make good students.

If children in our failing schools do not believe they have good teachers, who are we to stand in the way of their seeking instruction elsewhere? We cannot continue to make students prisoners of geography. We must apply to education those principles we know work in the economic sphere.

As Republicans, we believe in the free market. We know that competition drives excellence. I believe it is time to infuse those principles, if only in a limited way, into our education system.

Studies have shown opportunity scholarships are successful in boosting graduation rates without draining resources from the public schools. Giving parents a choice and improving public schools can be done simultaneously.

According to a study led by Dr. Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas, the District of Columbia’s opportunity scholarship program increased the graduation rate of students who were merely offered vouchers by double-digits. The graduation rate of students that actually used vouchers grew 21%. These are impressive statistics. Coupled with the moral and economic rightness of allowing choice — this is a no brainer.

Tennessee has proved over the past few years that we are a state willing to think boldly when it comes to education reform.

And frankly, we don’t have much choice. Tennessee consistently ranks at the top of the nation’s states in numerous categories. Whatever the measure — be it our low tax rate, our high quality of life or our reputation as the best state in the nation to own and operate a business — Tennessee shines. Our rank among states in education stands in strong contrast. It must be remedied.

Opportunity scholarships would provide hope to the children of this state who most need it. We cannot continue to hover near the bottom of the pack in education. We have taken the first steps in reform — but there is still much left to do.

Schools’ Science, Math Programs Get $5 Million Boost

Gov. Bill Haslam Monday morning touted the state’s push for an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education as a key step toward bringing more jobs to Tennessee.

The governor was at Stratford STEM Magnet High School to announce nearly $5 million in grants for three new STEM schools in Hamilton, Putnam and Sullivan counties. The grants will go to one existing school and two new schools, appropriating existing buildings.

“If we’re going to be the best location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, the root of that is providing the trained workforce to do that,” Haslam said.

“STEM Academies are one of the key steps in making that happen,” he added.

Funds from the grants go toward equipment and supplies related to STEM subjects, as well as curriculum design and professional development and training for teachers.

Along with the STEM schools come hubs, which each consist of a public-private partnership between school districts and businesses and non-profit organizations to support the program in the area. STEM grants are funded through the state’s Race to the Top grant.

In 2010, Tennessee was awarded $501 million in federal tax dollars as a part of the Obama administration’s nationwide competition. The money has been used for a number of education initiatives on the state and local level.

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman cited Tennessee’s lagging proficiency levels in subjects like reading and math, but described the STEM program as a chance to do more than just improve those numbers.

“Creating these hubs all across the state is the chance to spread excellence,” he said. “It’s the chance to say, we’re not just attempting to build stronger baseline skills, we’re attempting to create hubs of excellence and spread those kinds of best practices so that our kids truly can excel at a high level relative to kids all across the country.”

More ‘Report Card’ Info Available from State Education Department

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Dec 02, 2011:

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Education today released complete results from the 2011 state Report Card. Today’s release includes district- and school-level data on a variety of indicators, from student achievement and growth on standardized tests, to attendance and behavior.

This is the department’s fourth major data release this year, following the summer release of statewide Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program and Adequate Yearly Progress results, as well as the recent list of Reward, Priority and Focus schools slated for state support under the state’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility request.

This year’s data release timeline aligns with the department’s strategic plan to get as much information as possible to parents and families, to help them be active participants in their children’s education, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said.

“Data-driven education reform only works when numbers and information can be used to make informed, timely decisions,” Huffman said. “We look forward to continuing to get data and information to the public in the most useful format possible.”

Tennessee submitted its flexibility request — a waiver from certain portions of the No Child Left Behind Act — on Nov. 14. Part of the state’s application included a proposed new accountability model and governance structure for the state’s schools and districts. If the U.S. Department of Education approves the waiver, the current accountability would be replaced with the department’s proposal, which can be found at: http://tn.gov/education/doc/ESEA_Flexibility_Request.pdf.

To see results from the 2011 Tennessee Report Card, visit: http://edu.reportcard.state.tn.us/pls/apex/f?p=200:1:7867592151504984.

Higher Spending Requested for Higher Ed

Tennessee higher education officials, sensing the wind in the back of the state’s education reform efforts, boldly made their request to Gov. Bill Haslam Tuesday for a budget increase of $28.7 million.

Haslam has asked all state agencies to submit a contingency plan for 5 percent reductions, and the state’s higher education schools complied with an outline that would trim $55.1 million from their books.

But leaders of the state’s public colleges and universities seized upon the initiatives from K-12 education and higher education like the Complete College Act as a means of persuasion with the governor. The $28.7 million request represents a 2.7 percent increase in funds.

“This is an interesting time,” Richard G. Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, told Haslam during a budget hearing. “We have a new way of looking at it.

“The state has higher education serving the needs of the state. We have a new master plan. We have a new funding formula that reinforces that master plan based on outcomes. We’re seeing positive movement.”

Rhoda said there are indicators of more students completing degrees, better retention rates and improvements in the amount of remedial and developmental courses that have been falling to higher education. But even as a higher ed official, Rhoda pointed to the significance of what the state is doing in K-12 as the foundation for improvements in higher education.

“The reforms in higher education are great, but the bigger context is how it fits the other reforms in K-12,” Rhoda said. “For us to succeed really is predicated on those improvements in K-12. Just suffice it to say we very much support those.”

Rhoda sat between Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan and University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro at the hearing at the Capitol in Nashville. All three seemed keenly aware of the daunting financial obstacles facing students and families in affording college. THEC approved its budget request last week, but it came along with proposed increases in tuition that would range from 3-10 percent depending on the schools in the state’s higher education system.

Morgan made a pitch similar to Rhoda’s.

“The combination of Race to the Top, the Complete College Act, the talk is right,” Morgan said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of energy out there and discussion going on and realization that it really is about the state’s future.”

The education officials knew they were preaching to the choir in Haslam, who has made the ties between education and job growth a major theme in his first year in office. But it didn’t make the governor’s job any easier in funding education requests. Haslam cut the budget for higher education in his first year in office by 2 percent, or $20 million.

But the three educators brought even more ammunition to the table. DiPietro pointed to efforts to operate more efficiently in universities. Morgan said the costs at schools actually haven’t gone up at the pace of what students are experiencing in paying tuition.

Rhoda broke down funding trends for Haslam. He told the governor that 10 years ago a university’s funding came roughly 60 percent from the state and 40 percent from the students, while community colleges received about 70 percent from the state at that time.

Now, the figures have been reversed, Rhoda said. The state provides about 36 percent while student tuition and fees cover 53 percent. Rhoda, like Morgan, said cost itself is not increasing for the schools. The change, he said, is in the mix of revenue, where students are having to pay more for their share.

Haslam told reporters after the hearing that he believes there will have to be some tuition increase but that he hopes to limit it. He said he didn’t anticipate being able to grant the colleges a $28.7 million increase but that he didn’t believe he would have to hold them to a 5 percent decrease either. Haslam also pointed to capital needs at colleges and universities.

Haslam said the recent improvements in revenue figures could help the state address a $360 million budget gap.

“I’m really, really hopeful we don’t have to go 5 percent,” Haslam said. “Some of those cuts are tough.

“I feel a little better now than I did three weeks ago, but I can’t sit here today and tell you it will be 3 percent or 1 percent, instead of 5. I just don’t know that yet.”

The state reported that revenue collections for October were $791 million, 8 percent above October in 2010.

Haslam Defends Teacher Evaluation System

Gov. Bill Haslam again Monday defended the use of the state’s new teacher evaluation system and reminded everyone that the whole idea didn’t start with his administration.

Haslam made the point during a press availability on Capitol Hill after a ceremony for veterans. He told the Rotary Club of Nashville later Monday that change is “painful,” and he said after the speech he was making a particular reference to the evaluations with that remark.

Haslam also said Monday he will not state a position on school vouchers until later this year, although he told the Rotary audience the voucher issue is “probably going to be one of the most contentious” when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

The issue of teacher evaluations has been on the front burner in the Legislature with lengthy hearings on the process last week. The system has prompted many complaints among teachers and principals. The Haslam administration has basically stayed the course on the system, which is in its first year, even though Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman gained approval to tweak the system with some changes meant to make evaluations less time-consuming.

Tennessee’s success in the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” competition included a plan to evaluate teachers every year. Tenured teachers will be evaluated with four observations, and those without tenure will be evaluated six times. Haslam pointed out that the process goes back to the application for the federal funds won by the administration of his predecessor, Phil Bredesen.

“Remember how we got here. This was part of the Race to the Top application,” Haslam said. “Everybody agreed evaluations were really at the heart of that. The evaluation process was a work in progress for a year before this.

“It spanned administrations.”

He said it’s still early.

“This is November. We started it in September. It’s not like we have a really long track record,” Haslam said. “It takes a little bit of adjusting to get used to the evaluation. The first evaluation, because it is the one with lesson plans, does have the most paperwork involved in it. When we get past that, the evaluations after that will look a little different.”

Legislators are hearing from their constituents about the impact the evaluation system is having on schools.

“I understand. Before, if you got evaluated twice every 10 years and now you’re looking at this new process, that’s not something necessarily, ‘Oh boy, I’m really excited about that,'” Haslam said.

“But I do think, again, back to what’s at the heart of the change we need, why we won Race to the Top, was this idea of making certain we’re doing everything we can to encourage great teachers to be in the classroom. And the evaluation piece is a key part of that.”

Disgruntlement over the evaluation system has been so pronounced some observers have suggested that the state should hold off on actually acknowledging the findings in this first year, but Haslam remains steadfast. At the same time he dismissed any notion that changes in the basic concept might jeopardize the $500 million the state won in the Race to the Top competition in 2010.

“I don’t want to cast the political argument, ‘If you all change it we’re going to lose our funds.’ I don’t think that’s a fair argument for us to be making,” Haslam said. “I think it’s more about putting in jeopardy the pace that we need to change.”

The Haslam administration has stayed in the background thus far on the school voucher issue. The Legislature is considering a proposal that would allow children in the state’s largest counties — Davidson, Shelby, Knox and Hamilton — to apply for funds to attend a public school elsewhere in the district, a public charter school or a private school.

The issue has pitted those who favor school choice against those who are protective of the public school system.

Haslam was asked Monday why he has not taken a stand on vouchers yet.

“It’s incumbent upon us to do our homework to see: Do we know enough to make that call?” he said.

Haslam pointed to the need to study the experiences of other states who have tried vouchers in order to make the right decision. A voucher bill passed the Senate in the last legislative session and is expected to be considered in the House next year. The House version, HB388, is sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville.