Standing Together for Strong Community Schools (ST4SCS) is a grass-roots, nonpartisan coalition of parents and community members who value public education and are committed to strengthening and protecting Tennessee’s public schools. For too long, discussion of public education in Tennessee has been dominated by negativity and manipulated by well-funded special interests intent on dismantling our school systems, diverting public money from public schools, and limiting the voice of Tennessee citizens in shaping education policy through our local elected school boards. It is time for those who value and appreciate public education in Tennessee to celebrate our successes, become more informed on the various challenges our public schools face today, share ideas on supporting and improving our schools, and join forces to speak up on laws that impact our schools.
We want improvement in Tennessee schools driven by the voices of Tennessee parents and citizens, not by the out of state special interests that poured over $250,000 into our last election cycle to advance their agenda. Two legislative ideas already being discussed for 2013 will negatively affect the stability and strength of our schools:
1) A statewide charter school authorizer
2) Diverting tax dollars to private schools through vouchers
Join us as we “Stand Together for Strong Community Schools” and help shape education reform that truly serves ALL students and ALL communities.
We Support Local Control on Charter School Decisions
Charter schools are privately-owned and operated schools that are funded by public money. Currently, each county’s local elected school board has the authority to determine whether a proposed charter school is appropriate for its community. These board members are accountable to the voters in their community members through regular elections. If citizens do not agree with a board member’s policy decisions, they have the opportunity to make a change at the voting booth.
Currently, well-funded special interest groups are mobilizing to change Tennessee’s charter school laws and place the decision to grant a charter in the hands of an unelected body at the state level. This change would remove accountability and be directly opposed to the principle that government is most effective when it is closest to the people. If citizens did not agree with a state authorizer’s decisions, they would have no ability to remove a member of that body. Local residents, those affected by decisions regarding local schools, would have their voices weakened if these decisions are made by unelected persons, in another town, with little familiarity with the needs and characteristics of each unique district. Indeed, weakening local voices seems to be the very point of a state charter authorizer.
According to Tennessee Charter School Association Executive Director, Matt Throckmorton, “A statewide authorizer, they are not engaged in the local discussion, the personalities, and the neighborhood.” He goes on to say that about 75% charter schools are approved every year and a state authorizer would not change that number very much. – Sep 27, 2012 WSMV interview
Maintaining local control on the thoughtful decision to open new schools is essential to preserving our rights as citizens. This is not an issue against school choice. This is about elected officials being able to choose the right schools for our districts. You elect your local school board members. If you don’t like their decisions, you can vote them out. A state charter authorizer would take away your local input on opening schools in your community. Instead, appointed bureaucrats from outside your community would have the power to circumvent your locally elected officials. The appointed bureaucrats would not be accountable to you at all. Going over elected officials’ decisions, a statewide charter authorizer would increase the reach of state government into local affairs and create additional bureaucracy. And finally, schools authorized by a state charter authorizer would take money from the budgets of your local public schools and existing locally authorized charter schools.
Decisions about our schools should be made locally, by those familiar with, accountable to, and elected by the members of our communities. Oppose the state charter authorizer. This legislation is set to move VERY QUICKLY through the legislature. They are hoping you don’t notice. Email your representatives TODAY.
We Support Keeping Public Money in Public Schools
Vouchers take money from public school budgets and send it to private schools. A voucher system is touted as offering choice, but the real choice lies with the private school, which gets to pick and choose what voucher students to accept. A vouchers program would drain resources from public schools. It makes no sense for Tennessee, which already ranks a dismal 47th in the nation in per pupil spending for public schools, to divert public funding from public schools. Vouchers eliminate public accountability regarding the use of tax money. They divert public dollars to private schools that, unlike public schools, do not have to make their meetings, records, and budgets open to public review. Private schools do not have to accept all students and do not have to adhere to laws regarding special education, so any “choice” promised by a voucher program is limited to a select few. In addition, many of the private schools in TN are affiliated with a particular religion. Under a voucher system, taxpayers end up paying for religious instruction to which they may have objections. On top of all this, research shows that voucher programs in other areas of the country have not resulted in increased student achievement.