By Steve Hunley

There are frequent complaints about bullying in our schools and is it any wonder?  On Saturday, April 6, Governor Bill Lee came to Knox County to speak at the Lincoln Day Dinner.  A small group of teachers led by former local teachers’ union head Lauren Hopson Sorenson and State Representative Gloria Johnson made themselves obnoxious.  Some of the teachers, who are protesting the governor’s Educational Savings Account legislation, were carrying signs depicting State Representative Bill Dunn wearing a dunce cap.  For one thing, Bill Dunn is a man of integrity, who speaks up for the things he believes in without degrading or belittling anyone.  Not so the teachers who didn’t demonstrate being all that bright as they were chasing the wrong car, hoping to intimidate Governor Lee.

Teachers have also been besieging members of the Knox County Board of Education to pressure Superintendent of Schools Bob Thomas to call off school last week or allow them a “personal” or “professional” day so they could rush to Nashville to protest the Educational Savings Account legislation in person.  Superintendent Thomas resisted the pressure and responded he wasn’t closing schools or allowing them time they hadn’t earned; Thomas suggested the teachers wanting to hurry off to Nashville could do what most other mortals would do – – – send an email or pick up the telephone to make their views known.

School Board members are being summoned to come to Nashville to lobby legislators. Anyone who has seen a western movie will be familiar with the predictable stampede; the only difference is this particular stampede will occur in the marble halls of the state capitol.  The thundering herd will moo plaintively while the sounds of hooves will echo off the marble walls.  While the number locally is insignificant compared to the number of teachers employed, most of these unionists like personal publicity as much as a hog likes slop and will carry signs and protest and shriek it is the end of the civilized world as we know it if the governor’s ESA legislation should pass the Tennessee General Assembly.

On the contrary, Governor Bill Lee has neutralized the teachers’ union of its most potent argument; if passed, the ESA bill will not take a penny out of the budgets of the school systems where there are failing schools.  Moreover, it will only affect six school systems out of one hundred and forty-one in the State of Tennessee, and only those students stuck in a failing school.  In fact, school systems will be reimbursed for the loss of those students who decide to go elsewhere under the legislation backed by Governor Lee.  For those teachers squalling such programs have never worked, ESA is a pilot program and if it doesn’t work, it lasts only three years.  Certainly, the students couldn’t be any worse off than being trapped inside a failing school.  The truth is, the protesting unionists can’t afford for the program to work.  Were they truly confident it would fail, the smart thing to do would be to allow it to pass and watch it promptly fail.  That would certainly bolster their argument, which is already mighty thin.

Instead, these protestors are waving signs belittling Bill Dunn for having the courage of his convictions – – – and as far as being a dunce is concerned, I would wager more of the sign waving crowd would qualify for that honor than Representative Dunn.  I’m not aware there are any geniuses amongst that particular herd.  In an age when bullying is a problem in our schools, the people who tell us how much they live for our children are bullying others.  Again, this is not all the teachers in Knox County or Tennessee, but there are enough to make a loud little bully brigade.

Governor Bill Lee is offering the people of Tennessee and their children a way out of failing schools, something the public school systems haven’t fixed, but have spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.  The only answer they have is spending even more money.  Governor Lee is offering the people of Tennessee and their children a choice, something most of these protesting teachers would claim they supported if it came down to being pro choice.  Yet, they don’t want you to have a choice.  The bully brigade likely don’t even represent a majority of teachers in Tennessee.

Hopefully, the members of the Tennessee House of Representatives will ignore the bully brigade and give their constituents the right to choose in how they wish to educate their children instead of allowing the public school system to have a monopoly and the ability to keep a child locked in a failing school.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste and one choice is no choice at all.