By Victor Skinner
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A task force exploring options for a new school voucher program in Tennessee issued a report this week with recommendations heading into the next legislative session.
Members of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s Task force on Opportunity Scholarships released their recommendations Thursday for a small voucher program aimed at low-income students, WSMV reports.
The report suggests the possibility of including both public and private schools in the program, and limiting the amount participating schools can charge for tuition to “the combined amount the state and local governments pay per student,” according to the news site.
The nine-member task force, comprised of educators and Republican lawmakers, found consensus on other aspects of a potential program, such as accountability measures to screen participating private schools, and an academic review of any voucher program before it’s expanded, the Tennessean reports.
Of course, Tennessee’s education establishment – the Tennessee Education Association and local school boards – opposes private school vouchers and is expected to lobby against any proposal introduced in the Republican-controlled legislature next session.
Union officials in the Volunteer State are making the same tired arguments against vouchers as their colleagues in Indiana, Louisiana, and Florida.
“We’re talking about something that is going to rob public schools, send the money to private and parochial schools at a time when we’re already 46th or 47th in funding schools in the nation. It’s a bad idea,” Jerry Winter, lobbyist for the TEA, told WSMV.
A truly bad idea would be to ignore the fact that many low-income students in the state’s public schools don’t receive the quality of education they deserve. Giving students the ability to transfer to different schools – whether private, parochial, or a better public school – will force less desirable schools to step up their game or wither away.
The only people concerned about keeping bad public schools from going under are those who rely on them for their livelihood.
Government education funding doesn’t belong to public school bureaucrats or Jerry Winter or the teachers union. It belongs to the students of Tennessee, and exists for the sole purpose of providing them the best education possible.
A voucher system would make it far more likely that all children receive quality instruction.