Within 24 hours of this article appearing online, it had been viewed over 1,200 times, had received over 700 Facebook "likes," and had over 50 public comments on the Tennessean's own website. These statistics are significant.
Strangely, the next day, the statistics and comments on this article all vanished. The Tennessean has not yet responded as to why the 700 likes and 50+ comments disappeared. Many speculate it was done intentionally. We may never know.
The overwhelming interest and support of this article show that the public is very much aware and concerned on this issue of vouchers. People do not want their tax dollars funding private schools.
Lyn Hoyt does a terrific job of explaining why lawmakers should not approve vouchers:
by Lyn Hoyt, President of TREE
March 2, 2015 in the Tennessean
Yet again, Tennessee lawmakers are pushing school vouchers, a failed idea that’s been proven to take money out of already cash-strapped public schools and unproven to boost student achievement.
After several years of infighting within the Republican Party over competing plans, the Senate Education Committee recently voted to approve the most extreme version yet.
Its future remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: a voucher plan such as the one passed could have grave consequences for our students, our schools and our taxpayers.
I am a mother of three Nashville public school students and I serve as president of Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE), a grassroots volunteer group of parents and educators who support quality investment and transparency in public education.
We oppose vouchers because they have no track record of improving student achievement. They are also a distraction from the real investments that would bring lasting educational improvements to all public schools.
Milwaukee, Wis., has had a voucher program since 1990. According to a 2012 study by the Public Policy Forum, only 57 percent of voucher school students scored proficient or higher in reading, compared with 60 percent of Milwaukee public school students. In math, only 41 percent of voucher students reached proficiency, compared with 50 percent in public schools.
And vouchers don’t just affect the academic outcomes of the students who accept them. They have a negative impact on entire schools and communities, discounting a child’s need for social-emotional stability, trusted teachers and administrators, low teacher turnover, decreased student mobility rates and community investment.
Vouchers would be paid for by reducing the funding to a community’s public schools. Meanwhile, those public schools become no less costly to run, with the same facility costs, same need for teachers and other costs unaffected by the departure of a few students. Essentially, public schools will be asked to do the same job with fewer funds.
Voters have entrusted every member of the General Assembly with the responsibility to fund public education. The General Assembly’s nonpartisan fiscal review department scores legislation to determine its financial impact. The fiscal note on this legislation is staggering. If passed, we would see $16.6 million leave our public schools. By 2018, that would climb to nearly $70 million zapped from public education.
That is why it was so disappointing to see five members of the General Assembly, including my senator, Nashville’s Sen. Steve Dickerson, vote to support vouchers. I hope that these members will take a closer look at the facts regarding vouchers and reconsider.
Our schools haven’t received the state funding that’s required by law since 2007, and we’ve avoided proven strategies — such as manageable class sizes, student support services, pre-K, and opportunities in the arts, physical education and music — that are essential to a quality education.
Instead, we’ve seen lawmakers abdicate their responsibility to our students, willing to farm it out to private schools, with no academic guarantees for the students left in the public system or for the voucher participants. A December 2012 Tennessean article reported that desired private schools won’t take vouchers.
Voucher schools can choose not to provide transportation or serve academically struggling students, English-language learners and the disabled. Meanwhile, in Louisiana’s failed reform experiment they cannot even fill their voucher spots. Tennessee does not need this fiasco.
We must ask: Who or what is behind such a strong push for an unproven policy? There is no evidence of demand by voters for this dangerous legislation.
It’s time to put this distraction to bed once and forever and focus on policy that will benefit all children.
Lyn Hoyt serves as president of Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence.
Speaker Beth Harwell recently did an informal survey mailed to her constituents and spread online. Over 5,000 people responded. The results show overwhelmingly that the majority of people:
- do not want vouchers.
- do not support Common Core.
- do not want for-profit Charter Schools.
The voucher bill sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown, TN, has affectionately been nicknamed the "Jubilee Catholic School Bailout Bill" because the Jubilee schools desperately need this voucher funding to operate. Other religious and more affluent Catholic private schools have already said they will not accept vouchers.
Kyle Henderson, Senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Athens, TX, wrote words of wisdom when he said, "God does not need vouchers." He wrote an enlightening article about why religious schools should not accept vouchers, saying:
"In the beginning, temptation appeared as a fruit. Today, it appears in the shape of a voucher. As tempting as it may be for private, religious schools to pluck the low-hanging fruit of “free” public money, the cost is too great. I say this as a pastor. I say this as a Christian school leader. I say this with certainty."
"These government payouts seek to fill in for faith. They whisper from the shadows that they are the answer to the problems of funding a Christian school. God does not need vouchers."
“Vouchers and all its versions including “school choice options” rightly come with responsibilities and obligations to the government, but Jesus told us we cannot serve two masters. These vouchers are either a grab to control faith-based schools or an irresponsible, unaccountable disbursement of public funds. Either the government will start exerting control over faith-based schools, or they will send money to schools that do not have to meet any standards. The only viable choice for a faith-based school is to reject the funds."
"In North Carolina’s voucher program, 8 percent of the public money is diverted to a single school, the Greensboro Islamic Academy. Louisiana’s voucher system only passed the state legislature when an Islamic school’s request for funds was withdrawn. Where public funds are diverted to faith-based schools, all faiths will have access to the funds."
"I prefer the system where those who love faith bear the cost of that faith. We don’t need vouchers to solve the problems of education in the state of Texas. We need legislators who are courageous enough to help public schools to thrive, to return full funding to Texas schools and even increase it. I am part of Pastors for Texas Children, because we are mobilizing all over the state to fight for children, fight for freedom of religion and against a private view of education that draws money away from already struggling schools."
Make no mistake, this voucher bill in Tennessee is no saving grace for students. It is a worm, designed to wiggle into our state using the poorest students, lay its eggs, and multiply like a parasite feeding off the public school system. That isn't a pretty picture, but the stark reality that cannot be ignored is that vouchers will bleed starving public school districts dry and hurt the children left in them.