The Sumner County School Board tonight unanimously voted in favor of a resolution opposing school vouchers in Tennessee. The move comes as legislative debate over vouchers is heating up.
One member of Sumner County’s legislative delegation, state Senator Ferrell Haile, is a co-sponsor of the “Opportunity Scholarship” program targeted at Memphis.
Here’s the resolution:
WHEREAS, the Sumner County Board of Education is responsible for providing a local system of public education; and
WHEREAS, the Tennessee General Assembly in the 2017 legislative session will entertain legislation that would create a voucher program allowing students to use public education funds to pay for private school tuition; and
WHEREAS, more than 50 years have passed since private school vouchers were first proposed, and during that time proponents have spent millions of dollars attempting to convince the public and lawmakers of the concept’s efficacy, and yet, five decades later, vouchers still remain controversial, unproven, and unpopular; and
WHEREAS, the Constitution of the State of Tennessee requires that the Tennessee General Assembly “provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools”, with no mention of the maintenance or support of private schools; and
WHEREAS, the State of Tennessee, through work of the Tennessee General Assembly, the Tennessee Department of Education, the State Board of Education and local school boards, has established nationally recognized standards and measures for accountability in public education; and
WHEREAS, 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; and
WHEREAS, vouchers have not been effective at improving student achievement or closing the achievement gap, with the most credible research finding little or no difference in voucher and public school students’ performance; and
WHEREAS, vouchers leave many students behind, including those with the greatest needs, because vouchers channel tax dollars into private schools that are not required to accept all students, nor offer the special services they may need; and
WHEREAS, vouchers give choices to private schools, not students and parents, since private schools decide if they want to accept vouchers, how many and which students they want to admit, and the potentially arbitrary reasons for which they might later dismiss a student; and
WHEREAS, many proponents argue these programs will increase options, when in fact several options currently exist within public school systems; and
WHEREAS, voucher programs divert critical dollars and commitment from public schools to pay private school tuition for a few students, including many who already attend private schools; and
WHEREAS, vouchers are an inefficient use of tax payer money because they compel taxpayers to support two school systems: one public and one private, the latter of which is not accountable to all the taxpayers supporting it; and
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Sumner County Board of Education opposes any expansion of the special education voucher program as well as any new legislation that would divert money intended for public education to private schools.
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