We wish to respond to a Timesnews.net article, “Hawkins BOE opposes state funding for private schools.”  However, many of the comments we want to respond to are similar to comments made in numerous articles by various media outlets and school board members concerning the voucher legislation, SB2135, introduced by state Senator Kelsey.

First up:

“State funds are provided for students across the state attending public schools but not to private schools,” Hawkins County Director of Schools Charlotte Britton told the Times-News Monday. 

Taxpayers fund education to provide a quality education that will empower students to reach their potential – not to support a district, a school or a jobs program, especially one that is failing in its mission – educating children and empowering them to reach their potential.  For example let’s look at some Hawkins County statistics:

Graduation rate for 2010 89.5%

2010 Value added grades in

Math D

Reading D

Science D

Social Studies B

Hawkins County vs. the world (using 2007 data) via the Global Report Card ranked in the:

28 percentile in math

40 percentile in reading

Not exactly proof of the quality education parents and taxpayers expect for their taxes.  Taxpayers and parents should be empowered to hold the Hawkins County school district “accountable” for these dismal numbers.  That is what vouchers would do.  Parents could hold a school “accountable” by voting with their feet (although Hawkins County was not included in SB2135).

Five decades later, vouchers still remain controversial, unproven and unpopular, the resolution states.

Seriously, this statement is so demonstrably false the paper should be ashamed and print a correction and apology.  We refer the Timesnews.net to Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Vouchers released 3/23/2011 by Greg Forster, Ph.D.  This report reviews all available empirical studies that use the “gold standard” method of random assignment of how voucher programs affect academic achievement in public schools.  TNSC wrote about this report and shared some highlights Here, but bottom line is vouchers work.  Specifically, vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools. They may be controversial and unpopular with school boards and unions, but not with parents who want a better education for their children.

The Tennessee Constitution requires that the General Assembly “provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools.” Maintenance or support of private schools is not mentioned in the state constitution.

Attaching the money to the child instead of the school (via vouchers or any other school choice form) in no way conflicts with providing a “system of free public schools.”  Traditional public schools will remain.  Rather, private schools will become an additional choice available to parents much like charter schools in that they are publicly funded, but privately managed.  Vouchers will, in essence, expand the network of “public schools.”

“Taxpayers expect accountability for their tax dollars being spent. The public has access to our budget, our academic standards, report card information, student achievement, and transparency in federal spending.

“Private schools do not have to provide any of this information to the public.”

The resolution further states, “Vouchers eliminate public accountability by channeling tax dollars into private schools that do not face state-approved academic standards, do not make budgets public, do not adhere to open meetings and records laws, do not publicly report on student achievement, and do not face the public accountability requirements contained in major federal laws, including special education.”

All of the “accountability” mentioned above has been available to parents in Hawkins County, but would good has it done their children or taxpayers?  Hawkins County, like so many others is failing to educate and prepare the large majority of their children.  Private schools provide “accountability” by having students who test better, by graduating more students and sending more students to college.  That is meaningful “accountability.” The right (the funding) to provide children with an education that best meets their needs should belong to the parent, not politicians or be based on zip codes.



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