Today residents of Memphis go to the ballots to vote on school reform (sample ballot Here):

“Shall the administration of the Memphis City School System, a special school district, be transferred to the Shelby County Board of Education?”

However, TNSC submits the legislation is asking the wrong question.  The question should be one of moving to a free market voucher system for the residents of Memphis (and all of Tennessee).  The failures of the Memphis system will not be solved by blending it with other schools.  It will not be solved by more money.    Let’s review:

Memphis is about 3 points behind on ACT than the state average and approximately 10 points behind the state average in math, reading, s.s. & science.  Incidentally the state average is behind the national average: the United States ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics; US News & World Report’s ranks Tennessee 36th; Tennessee’s composite ACT score ranks it fourth from the bottom of the nation; In the 2009 SAT Scores Tennessee students rank 38th in critical reading, 36th in mathematics & 42nd in writing.  Yet, Memphis is spending $2000 more per student than the state average.  The Memphis system under control of the unions and the politicians beholding to them is a bloated bureaucracy.

To deny the success of school choice and vouchers is to willfully deny copious amounts of data, stats and real life examples of their success.  Despite what unions like to say vouchers have been proven to work.  Pepsi-Coke, paper-plastic, land line-cell. Free choice is what makes this country great.  Free market education systems currently operating in Europe not only provide expansive choices of schools specializing in a variety of needs and interests for their students, their children are scoring far above US children.  Some argue prices would rise above the ability of the consumer to pay if vouchers were introduced.  Some choices might, but in a free market if there is a need some organization will fill that need as proven in existing free market education models.  This is why we walk into a grocery store with endless choices.  In a free market someone steps in to fill a void/need.

With vouchers the power lies with the consumer (the child), not the provider (the school).  If a school fails to educate not only do the parents have the choice to go somewhere else, if the school fails it would be forced to close – both scenarios  are very unlike the reality of the public school system where children are trapped where they are zoned and schools remain open despite dismal results.  We can have a government funded education system through vouchers, we just do not need a government “run” system.  Were governments the provider of computers, cars, phones, etc. can you imagine what those items would look like today?  We’d still be using Commodores, Model-T’s and black rotary dial land lines.

For the past 40 years politicians have been listening to the teachers unions and spending more and more money, demanding smaller and smaller class sizes (which also serves to expand union membership incidentally) as an answer for abysmal student scores and graduation rates despite getting flat or no results while continuing to expect a different outcome.

NOW is the time to replace the broken, government run, monopoly, one size fits all model with a free market system based on vouchers.  Not only would we truly begin to educate our children, to be the first state to have a truly free market education system would be a huge boon to Tennessee’s economy on numerous levels.

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