​School Board Resolution Opposes Vouchers

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At a Special Called meeting Jan. 25, the Franklin County School Board passed a resolution affirming opposition to “any legislation or other similar effort to create a voucher program in Tennessee that would divert money intended for public education to private entities.” The pending state legislation would allow students to use public education funds to pay for private school tuition.
The Tennessee School Board Association reached out to local school boards asking them to “offer opposition” to the proposed legislation, said Director of Schools Stanley Bean. The resolution points out voucher programs go by different names and are variously referred to as “opportunity scholarships,” “education savings,” and “tax credits.”
“Regardless of what you call it, it’s taking money out of public education and giving it to parents of students to do whatever they want to with it,” Bean said.
The resolution stressed, that “the State of Tennessee has established nationally recognized standards and measures for accountability in public education … Vouchers eliminate accountability, by channeling taxes to private schools without the same academic or testing requirements, public budgets or reports on student achievement, open meetings and records, and public accountability requirements in major federal laws, including special education laws.”
The resolution also noted, “vouchers have not been proven effective at improving student achievement or closing the achievement gap.”
“Who will benefit from a voucher system?” asked school board representative Sara Liechty. “It won’t be the children from poverty and inner city schools. It will be the upper middle class, wealthier children who would have been in private school anyway. The extra the parents get will take the family to the Bahamas for a vacation.”
“It would just be a supplement,” concurred Board Chair Cleijo Walker, emphasizing the amount parents received would not be nearly enough to pay for private school tuition. “Parents of kids in urban schools that aren’t performing will be the ones who are for this, but it’s not going to help them.”
Illustrating the impact on the public schools from loss of funding Bean said, “The buses would still need to travel the same routes regardless of how many kids they were picking up. And we’d still need the same number of teachers. If there were 23 rather than 25 students in a class, we’d be losing the money for those two students, but we’d still have to pay for the teacher.”
“Christian schools, private schools, home schooling—that’s a lawful right,” Liechty said. “But don’t ask the tax payers to pay for it.”