Tennesseans should support the governor, ESAs

By Steve Hunley

Tennesseans ought to stand up and support Bill Lee and the governor’s Education Savings Account legislation. Legislators are being bombarded by special interests opposed to parents and students having a choice for once. Most of the opposition is by teachers’ unions. What are they afraid of? The bottom line is the debate isn’t about education or what’s best for the students. The reality is it’s about protecting jobs and union dues. While unionist mumble about billionaires and money interests as they fight against parents and students having a bigger say in education, it’s usually the unions who supply vast amounts of cash during campaigns. Teachers’ unions do not want any kind of competition and they demand all schools, at least through college, be funded 100% through taxpayer dollars. Teachers get a lifetime pension, work about nine months of the year and still claim they are under paid. The union protects the bad with the good and one size fits all. To the perfect unionist, there is no such thing as a bad teacher. If you doubt the efficiency of the public school system, think of other government run entities like the post office and then think about FedEx and UPS. As President Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”

In Knox County, third grade reading proficiency is abysmal. When confronted with this, the teacher unions would squall that all they need is more money. All told, the Knox County School system spends over half a billion taxpayer dollars annually. Money clearly doesn’t equate to success. Taxpayers fund approximately $10,000 per student and the preparation rate – – – meaning is the student prepared to either go on and get a job or further his or her education – – – is less than 40%. Don’t be fooled by the “if we only had enough money” wail by the education establishment. One thing they are afraid of is that Education Savings Accounts will work and get results government-run schools can’t and won’t. For the teachers’ unions, there’s no such thing as spending too much taxpayer money, usually in the form of pay hikes and benefits for themselves. Will Pinkston, no conservative, but according to the Nashville Tennessean, a dominate force on the Davidson County Board of Education for the last six years, has just issued a blast at his colleagues and submitted his resignation. Pinkston said the current configuration of the board was hopelessly inept and lying to teachers when it promised educators a 10% raise. Will Pinkston said Davidson County can’t afford more than a cost of living raise and announced he will vote for a “0% raise.”

Just last week Knox County has been stunned by news that fewer tax dollars under the Basic Education Program will be flowing from Nashville. Evidently figures indicate Nashville is sending less than half of what locals anticipated. Yet some of our board members are busy phone banking and attempting to lobby or intimidate legislators into opposing Governor Bill Lee’s Education Savings Accounts legislation. So basically, our board members are busy opposing Governor Lee’s signature piece of legislation for this session of the Tennessee General Assembly while Mayor Glenn Jacobs, the mayor’s chief of staff, county Finance Director Chris Caldwell and the school system’s director of finance all hurry down to Nashville to meet with the governor. Knox County officials are alarmed about the amount of money coming from Nashville, or to be more precise, the fact not as much is coming as they hoped for. Former superintendent Jim McIntyre larded the school budget by growing the school bureaucracy during his reign. McIntyre’s Leadership Academy created the means to fill up schools with assistant principals that were unneeded and he hired “coaches” for veteran teachers. Neither the current superintendent or the board have cut out the fat globbed onto the system by former superintendent McIntyre. Mayor Jacobs is likely too new and doesn’t yet have the institutional knowledge to know where to look in the school budget to find the fat, but there’s enough bloat in the school budget to make even some tax and spend liberals blush.

The battle going on in the legislature is important. If you want choice for you and your kids, contact your legislator and support Governor Bill Lee. Lee is fighting for Tennessee families. The teachers unions are fighting for themselves and their own self interests.