Tennessee’s next Governor, Bill Lee, is an unabashed voucher supporter.
As the General Assembly prepares to return in January, it will be important for policymakers to focus on what gets results instead of what the new Governor thinks is the cool new thing for Tennessee schools.
Derek Black, who teaches law at the University of South Carolina and focuses on education policy issues, points out some flaws in arguments in favor of “school choice” in a recent column in Salon.
His argument is essentially that a lack of accountability in many choice programs combined with the financial strain they put on traditional K-12 schools has a devastating impact and must be re-examined:
The current debate over school funding must move beyond teacher salaries and whether the books in public schools are tattered. Those conversations ignore the systematic policies that disadvantage public schools. Increasing public school teachers’ salaries alone won’t fix the problem. The public school teaching force has already shrunk. Class sizes have already risen. And the rules that advantage charter and private schools remain firmly in place.
Long-term solutions require a reexamination of these preferences. As a state constitutional matter, the law requires that states make public education their first priority. It is not enough to make education one of several competing priorities. And as a practical matter, states cannot continue to ask public schools to work with whatever is left over and then criticize them for doing a poor job. This cycle creates a circular justification for dismantling public education when states should be repairing it.
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