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By Steve Hunley

The Tennessee School Board Association is busy pedaling an editorial written by the Executive Director of the TSBA for publication all across the state.  The education bureaucrats are panicking, as it appears the Tennessee General Assembly will finally pass a school voucher bill.

Dr. Tammy Grissom, Executive Director of the TSBA, tries to cite reasons why folks should be against school vouchers.  She claims, “Vouchers use your money to help pay for a student to go to a private school that answers to private administrators and not you the taxpayer.  Public schools must answer to the people and are held accountable for the use of local, state and federal educational tax money.”

If only that were true!  Appointed superintendents answer only to their own Boards.  Do you think Jim McIntyre answers to the taxpayers?  Do you suppose Jim McIntyre considers the taxpayers except for whenever he’s asking for more and more of your tax dollars to spend?  Do you imagine there is an outcry on the part of the public for a balanced calendar, which is McIntyre-speak for Year Round School?  No, the outcry is confined to Jim McIntyre’s office.  Was it the taxpayers Jim McIntyre was thinking of when he insisted the Board of Education extend his contract to the maximum four years under the law when it still had years to run?  And did the Board consider the taxpayers or the public when they did exactly what he demanded?  NO.

The notion public schools are accountable to taxpayers is just not true.  In Knox County it’s gotten some better on the board, but there was a time when McIntyre lorded over it with an 8 – 1 majority.  The Board was far more responsive to McIntyre than it ever was to the people.  Folks in Knox County began to catch on and the last election helped to change that.

Dr. Grissom states, “Private schools are not public institutions, and without proper oversight the ‘qualifications and standards’ for students may fall short of expectations and undermine the fundamental idea of equality in education. Vouchers require the public to supplement these standards even if they are contrary to state and federal education law.”

Education law, pretty much exclusively laid down by the state and federal governments, is likely one big reason public education has declined to its current state.

Taxpayers supplement all sorts of things – – – people who don’t work, pop out babies we have to support, free health care, tax rebates for people who pay not a dime in taxes and the list goes on.  Why is it that most people with the means send their kids to private schools chose to do so?  The answer is simple: because they emerge better educated with a brighter future.

Dr. Grissom warns us that, “Vouchers force the public to support two drastically different educational systems one over which the public has no oversight.” I would argue that parents would have more oversight if they had more control over their child’s education, which would be the case with vouchers.

The system over which the public supposedly has oversight spends literally billions of tax dollars and yet in Tennessee seventy percent of the kids graduating high school have to take remedial courses before they go to college, IF they get to college.

The education bureaucrats and self-appointed do-gooders are willing to keep everybody locked into a deteriorating public school system in the name of equality.  They complain that private schools can “cherry pick” the good students, those who behave properly, and want to learn.  So what?

There’s no business in the world that would still be in business with the record the public school system has presently.  What the education bureaucrats fail to see is that nothing in this country needs to be reformed more than public schools.  Most education bureaucrats are dead set against anything except continuing the monopoly they’ve enjoyed forever.  When did you ever get the best price or product as the result of a monopoly?

Never.  You never will.

Just about everything in this country became better when it faced competition.  Rather than continuing to have a monopoly on tax dollars and our kids, perhaps a little competition will force the education bureaucrats to clean up their act and actually focus on educating our children.

The folks in charge of public education have largely managed to avoid any real oversight; the legislature, in its wisdom, has come up with new rules and regulations that are supposed to hold teachers accountable.  Much of their reforms are, in my opinion, questionable.  Yet they didn’t do a thing to hold the highly paid education bureaucrats accountable at all.

Jim McIntyre is a perfect example of the new public school education bureaucrat; he’s really quite good at employing the education-speak favored by the bureaucracy.  McIntyre has better dexterity than anybody who has ever been on “Dancing With the Stars” in side-stepping hard questions he doesn’t want to answer.  Lastly, he has few peers in wanting more and more money and wasting it.

McIntyre’s “vision” amounts to mouthing platitudes, employing feel good phrases such as his constant refrain “there’s some extraordinary learning” going on in our schools.  Yet seventy percent of our students in Tennessee, and it’s even higher in Knox County, require remedial courses when going to college.

They incessantly tell us they can do so much more, if only they had more money, because they’ve done so well after spending half a billion dollars annually (sarcasm alert).  Just where is all that oversight Dr. Grissom is talking about?

For that matter, the education folks are decrying the “special interests” and lobbyists pushing the voucher bill. To the education establishment, would this include the delegation of black ministers from Memphis that recently traveled to Nashville at their own expense to encourage the legislature to support vouchers? The  fact is education bureaucrats are a special interest if there ever was one.  For years, that special interest has been successful in preserving its own domain. The education establishment has been of, by and for the establishment when it should be of, by and for the children.

Also it’s time average folks had more skin in the game.  Simply leaving everything to the education bureaucrats hasn’t worked that well.  Graduation rates, test scores, and all the other data doesn’t mean a thing ultimately; the ultimate test of public schools is have you prepared the students to go out and get a job or further their own educations.  That’s the ONLY data that matters.  Everything else is meaningless when push comes to shove.

You education bureaucrats have had your chance and you failed.  It would be hard for somebody to do a worse job.

We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by passing the voucher bill and I encourage the legislature to do just that.