Governor Bill Lee is putting his school privatization scheme on the fast track. Marta Aldrich of Chalkbeat is all over the story, with news of Lee’s desire to rapidly grow the voucher program and reports of a new hire in the Department of Education to advance the voucher agenda.
When Tennessee lawmakers signed off on an education voucher program this spring, they included a deadline: The program must start by the 2021-22 school year.
Now, Gov. Bill Lee wants to cut that timeline in half, launching the program just a year from now — a prospect that has advocates and even some allies expressing concerns.
The Republican governor has directed the state education department to work with the Tennessee Board of Education so the controversial program can kick off for the 2020-21 school year, Chalkbeat has confirmed.
And, Amity Schuyler has been tapped to oversee voucher implementation:
“She comes from Florida where they already have education savings accounts, she’s done lots of voucher-ESA work, and she understands what it’s like from a district perspective,” Schwinn said of Schuyler.
“She also believes in education savings accounts. And to take the lead on this project, I need someone who believes in it,” Schwinn said.
Here’s how the Orlando Sentinel views Florida’s voucher scheme:
In its “Schools Without Rules” series, Sentinel reporters found voucher (or “scholarship”) schools faking safety reports, hiring felons, hiring high-school dropouts as teachers and operating in second-rate strip malls. They discovered curricula full of falsehoods and subpar lesson plans.
If you confront defenders of this system, be they legislators or school operators, many start mumbling about the virtue of “choice”— as if funding a hot mess of a school is a swell thing, as long parents choose that mess.
Horse hockey. I choose accountability. And transparency. And standards.
Here’s an example of how Florida’s choice programs are working out for kids:
South Florida Prep received significant funds from the Florida Department of Education under the McKay program. Here’s how that school was run:
Two hundred students were crammed into ever-changing school locations, including a dingy strip-mall space above a liquor store and down the hall from an Asian massage parlor. Eventually, fire marshals and sheriffs condemned the “campus” as unfit for habitation, pushing the student body into transience in church foyers and public parks.
“We had no materials,” says Nicolas Norris, who taught music despite the lack of a single instrument. “There were no teacher edition books. There was no curriculum.”
While it should come as no surprise that Bill Lee is moving quickly to privatize Tennessee’s public schools, it should certainly be of concern that the person chosen to lead the program comes from a state where the voucher program has been a source of fraud and abuse.
Then, there’s the issue of ongoing FBI investigations into both the House vote on vouchers AND the Senate sponsor of voucher legislation.
I will say this again: Bill Lee will stop at nothing in his quest to privatize public education in our state.
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