Dr. Bill Smith of Johnson City clearly and succinctly describes the playbook for school privatizers in recent piece in the Johnson City Press:
A popular refrain of conservative politicians has been the assertion that America has tried everything possible to improve its schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our leaders certainly have not done everything possible to help the schools facing the greatest challenges. Instead, they have repeatedly applied one ill-conceived policy prescription: testing children and shaming and punishing educators when the results aren’t deemed acceptable.
For almost two decades we have clung to this approach as if it is a matter of faith. As economic and racial inequalities in academic performance have persisted, our leaders have doubled down with increased determination. To them there is never any consideration of the possibility that so-called accountability measures might not be the solution to all educational concerns. If schools don’t succeed, it’s their fault. They are failures.
By purposefully characterizing schools in poor urban and rural areas as “failing schools,” elected officials have promoted the view that these schools are beyond redemption. Not surprisingly, these leaders now feel empowered to suggest that the only way forward is give up on struggling schools and enact voucher and charter programs.
That’s it. That’s the game. That’s the playbook used by Governor Bill Lee and those like him who wish to advance a school privatization agenda. Former Governor Haslam played this game, too.
Test. Punish. Underfund. Repeat. Until the results are so abundantly clear that the “only hope” is privatization.
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