Standing Together for Strong Community Schools

Tennesseans invested in local public education.


Opportunity for Whom?

Monday, Gov. Haslam filed his anticipated voucher proposal to shift public money away from public schools. The bill is titled the “Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act.”  A first review of the bill cries out for an answer to the question – Opportunity for Whom?

The first thing that jumps out about this bill is its statement that participating private schools need not offer special education services to voucher holding students. Since most private schools offer limited, if any, special education services, this provision seems to explicitly exclude students with special education needs from the “opportunity” the bill claims to create.

Further, there is no requirement that a participating private school accept voucher students without regard to its normal admissions criteria. Thus, with respect to those schools that have such admissions requirements, academically struggling students (the very students the bill is supposed to assist) will also be left without this new “opportunity.”

Certainly there is no new “opportunity” here for public school districts who will see much needed funds flow from their operating budgets.

So who will be benefit from this great new “opportunity”?  Those private schools that are financially struggling and need a tax-funded bail out from the state, while maintaining the ability to screen out low-performing or high-needs students.

Contact your Legislators and tell them you do not want your tax dollars funding private schools.


Spilling the Milk over Achievement & Choice in Public Education

There is so much talk about “choice” these days.  Choice, being defined as the opportunity or privilege of making a selection or decision when faced with two or more possibilities, seems to be the new education buzz word.  Achievement is so 2011. Americans enjoy the privilege of choice more than any other country and the plethora seems to be as American as apple pie. What clothes to wear and what store from which to get our milk are some of the hundreds of simple, everyday choices we make.   Choices such as who to vote for, where to buy or rent a home, and where to send our children to school are big, impactful decisions that are not made daily, nor are they made lightly.

Governor Haslam recently interviewed Governor Jeb Bush, the Chairman of  the Foundation for Excellence reform lobbying group, about his role in Florida’s education reform while in office.  Toward the end of the interview Bush stated that he was “intolerant and impatient” of people that have an “illogical resistance” to the fast paced implementation of vouchers and charter schools managed by for profit companies.  He went on to compare education choice to buying milk saying that there should be as many choices as possible–“I tell my friends to go to the store and look at all the different types of milk.”

By that analogy we can all assume that everyone can choose to buy whatever kind of milk that is available at the store.  That’s a bad assumption because availability does not mean accessibility.  If I live in the wealthier area of Nashville and my kids need milk, I can just drive to one of three grocery stores that are within a few hundred feet of each other and make my choice between multiple types of regular and organic milk.  I even have the option to buy almond or soy milk if my child is lactose intolerant.  But what happens if I live closer to downtown in a food desert where there is no grocery store near me?  Perhaps I’m fortunate enough to have a car and can drive several miles to the store and buy regular milk since the organic milk is out of my budget.  If I don’t have a car I could ride the bus to the grocery store, unless, of course, I am in a wheelchair and can’t navigate the bus and a bunch of groceries in bags.  The corner store that sells magazines, cigarettes, and soda may have a ramp for my wheelchair so I can buy the one brand of milk they carry and hope it’s not past the expiration date.  My choice seems to have been dramatically reduced, if not eliminated, due to some life circumstances, but ostensibly I have “choices”–I just can’t access them.

Our Governor, Bill Haslam, is now prioritizing the so-called concept of “choice” before actual student achievement.  It wasn’t that long ago that he said Tennessee has an “immoral” achievement gap that needs to be addressed.  Yet he recently stated that he is going to propose a voucher bill that will go to award “opportunity scholarships” to a hand-full of students living in poverty and attending failing schools.  They will, supposedly, then use these vouchers towards private schools, if they can get in that is…

Private schools have entrance requirements that often weed out students with poor performance and those with disabilities–the very students that are the bulk of the cause of the achievement gap.  The students that pass the entrance requirements and gain access to the private schools will have to be from families that can get them to and from school, as well as afford to buy them uniforms and books. The local education tax dollars for these children will then go to the private companies that run these schools and, subsequently, be taken out of the budgets of our already underfunded community schools.

Studies of voucher programs across the nation have not shown consistent increases in student achievement; so TN voucher holders, who will account for less than 2% of TN public school students, are not likely to see significant improvements in their academic achievement.  While the voucher holders experience small class sizes and limited testing the low performing and disabled students who are left behind at public schools struggling with even less money than before will continue to experience large class sizes and relentless testing.  As a result those students will probably not make significant strides, if any, in their achievement and the gap will, ironically, likely widen.  Perhaps the Governor is comfortable with this likely possibility, but we are not.

If we want to see the results of putting choice above achievement, we need look no further than Minnesota: They have had vouchers and charter schools for the past 2 decades and the students who have participated in these programs have not shown significant strides in achievement nor have the district schools improved because of the “competition”.  Our children do not have twenty years to spare to take part in the nationwide choice experiment.

We need improved achievement for ALL students NOW and we believe that adequate funding of our schools is necessary to reach this goal. (Tennessee is 47th in the nation for per pupil funding.) Stand with us for strong community schools and tell your legislators that we don’t want vouchers.  We want adequate funding so all of our students can reap the proven achievement boost from small class sizes, along with individualized attention and support.  We want all students to receive an equitable and excellent education in their community schools. And don’t forget to tell your legislators that WE, as tax paying constituents, are NOT OK with choice trumping achievement.

  • Click here for your State Representative and email or write them.
  • Click here for your Senator and email or write them.


Educating On the Issues of A State Authorizer and Vouchers

Standing Together for Strong Community Schools is pleased with the response and reception we have received from around the State of Tennessee. We are uniting the voices of like-minded citizens and gathering information to help the legislature understand that implementing a state charter authorizer and vouchers removes local control and siphons off precious education dollars. These initiatives are not in the best interest of the children of TN. Please continue to check our website and “like” our Facebook page to find out ways you can ask our legislators to vote “NO” on both of these upcoming pieces of legislation. Please consider signing up for our mailing list to receive information on upcoming exclusive events and important alerts.

If you are undecided on these issues, here are some articles that might help.

READ ABOUT ISSUES ON THE CHARTER AUTHORIZER AND VOUCHERS

VOUCHERS AND SCHOOL FINANCE: SAVING THE STATEHOUSE $
“Vouchers would ultimately prevent a decrease in education costs.”

GROW SOME JUEVOS (EGGS) ON CHARTERS!
Cloaking Inequity – Julian Vasquez Heilig’s Education and Public Policy Blog

VOUCHERS WILL HURT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Op-Ed from the Tennessean

STANFORD: WALL STREET GANG NOW OFFER EDUCATION CHOICES
About a quarter of the kids in the San Antonio School District Attend Charters…

NASHVILLE PARENTS PRESS FIGHT ON VOUCHERS, CHARTER AUHTORIZER
“Vouchers would just take money out of an already low-funded school system,” Patton said. “And it’s not a panacea. They’ve not necessarily been shown to raise student achievement.”

NEW GROUP FORMS TO FIGHT VOUCHERS, OPPOSE EDUCATION “SPECIAL INTERESTS”.
Standing Together for Strong Community Schools

VOUCHERS DON’T GET TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
“Rather than treating children like so many peas in a shell game, our leaders should focus on improving schools.”

RESEARCH EVIDENCE VS. SOARING IDEOLOGY: SCHOOL VOUCHERS AND ACHEIVEMENT
“It is very difficult to find rigorous scientific studies conclusively demonstrating that vouchers have a positive, empirically measurable impact on student achievement”


Stand with Us Tennessee

We were pleased the Tennessean wanted to do a story on “Standing Together for Strong Community Schools”. We hope our message resonates with the State of Tennessee. We are truly grassroots volunteers. We do not have a shiny office or slick board room. We receive no PAC money. There is no bank account. We meet in coffee shops, parks, or other public school parents’ homes. We scramble for child care for our meetings, but when we can’t find it, our children scramble underfoot as we discuss how to ensure that they, as well as all the children of Tennessee, receive the best public education possible.  We fear some will take our initiatives out of context, so we choose to craft our message on this website. We want other education advocates and public school parents around the state to share their experiences–in their words–with us.

We want voters and other public school parents to understand that vouchers and unfettered growth of charter schools are not panaceas and, in fact, can effectively weaken our public school systems. We need thoughtful school reform that insures good charters enter the school system. Charters must best serve our unique communities and help support and strengthen our zoned district schools. It must be done through local control, not a state level charter authorizer.

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Why Charter School Decisions Should Stay Local

Education reform news from around the country. Will a TN state charter authorizer ensure that charters placed in Tennessee communities will not run amuck?

SOUTH BOSTON CHARTER CALLED INTO QUESTION
“Critics of charter schools have questioned whether the academy has been pushing out disruptive or academically struggling pupils in order to boost its test scores.”

COULD A CHARTER SCHOOL FINE YOU FOR DETENTION TIME? SEEMS SO.
CHICAGO — Some of the city’s top charter schools are ringing up fines for disciplinary infractions even as they’re racking up large increases in public funding.

MEMPHIS PARENTS LASH OUT AGAINST ACHIEVEMENT SCHOOL DISTRICT LEADERS
The Lester Community Center bristled with anger Wednesday as Binghamton leaders demanded Achievement School District leaders explain why they were not part of decisions regarding Lester School.

PARSING CHARTER SCHOOL DISABILITY ENROLLMENTS
How charter schools in the city of Newark, NJ, by taking on fewer low income students, far fewer LEP/ELL students and very few children with disabilities other than those with the mildest/lowest cost disabilities are leaving behind a much higher need, higher cost population for the district schools to serve.