Please contact your representative about the following two bills.
Private School Vouchers: THE VOUCHER BILL BEFORE THE HOUSE WILL TAKE UP TO $130 MILLION FROM SCHOOLS ACROSS TENNESSEE IF IT PASSES.
- FOR FAMILIES IN “BOTTOM-FIVE” PRIORITY SCHOOLS THERE IS ALREADY CHOICE AND OPTIONS. THEY ARE NOT TRAPPED, AS PROPONENTS CLAIM. Federal law mandates that any LEA shall, not later than the first day of the school year following such identification, provide all students enrolled in a failing school with the option to transfer to another public school served by the LEA. U.S. Code § 6316 – (b)(1)(E) Public School Choice. Shelby County Schools already has a transfer/open enrollment program in board policy. It markets this to families in priority and other schools as the General Choice Transfer Process, which is open from the end of February through April of each school year. Memphis has the largest number of charter schools in the state. There are 64 charter schools serving 19,000 students, with many more slated to open in the coming years. Most of these charter schools are close to priority schools, and some are under capacity.
- VOUCHERS DO NOT WORK AND, LIKE LOUISIANA, COULD DO HARM Vouchers have never been shown to significantly improve overall student outcomes. While some research has indicated minor gains, most peer-reviewed studies show little or no impact on academic achievement. However, last month a research report by faculty from Duke, MIT and Berkeley identified harm to students in Louisiana’s voucher program, a program that Tennessee’s voucher advocates have modeled from. The report was released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (a publisher of voucher founder Milton Friedman), the Louisiana study found:
- Attendance at a voucher-eligible private school lowers math scores and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent.
- Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies were also negative and significant.
- The negative impacts of vouchers were consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are more significant for younger children.
- Survey data shows that voucher-eligible private schools experience rapid enrollment declines prior to entering the program, indicating that the vouchers may attract private schools struggling to maintain enrollment.
- THE VOUCHER BILL HAS NO ACCOUNTABILITY One reason why research was possible to uncover poor voucher performance in Louisiana is that Louisiana voucher students take state tests. The Tennessee voucher legislation does not require this kind of accountability, specifically exempting private schools from administering state tests. Taxpayers will not know if academic achievement comparable to public schools is taking place.
THE VOUCHER BILL EXPANDS BEYOND “BOTTOM-FIVE” SCHOOLS, WILL VOUCHERIZE EXCELLENT PUBLIC SCHOOLS All low-income students in a county with just one school in the bottom 5 percent are eligible for vouchers in this legislation. It is not about poor performing schools or providing more options for families zoned in those schools. It is probable that taxpayers will pay for a student to leave an effective public school and go to a poorly performing private school.
For people dedicated to children and public education, this is not what we want for Tennessee. It is important to ask all state representatives to stand up for the best education for all students and reject the voucher bill.
Payroll Dues Deduction: A bill that directly attacks TEA members and the ability of educators to be involved in the political process moved quickly through the Senate, but has not yet passed the House. The bill sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, (SB 151) was quickly rewritten in Senate Education committee last week to delete its original intent and focus squarely on attacking TEA's ability to collect dues through payroll dues deduction. Many members have voluntarily chosen to keep payroll deduction, and that choice should not be summarily banned. The bill has a preamble that is clearly wrong on the facts, as Fiscal Review and others have pointed out.
- Joining any professional association is voluntary for teachers.
- Having dues paid from payroll deduction is a teacher’s choice.
- Contributing to a PAC is voluntary for members of TEA. Membership does not require PAC contributions.
- No professional teachers’ organization in Tennessee is denied payroll deduction by LEAs.
- As outlined in the fiscal note, payroll dues deduction do not cost tax dollars.
- Teachers use payroll deduction for a variety of benefits and purposes, including supplemental insurance, retirement accounts, and charity. TEA dues are no different.
- Teacher payroll deduction payments going to corporations do not stop their political activity under the bill.
- PECCA (collaborative conferencing) was granted to teachers by the General Assembly in 2011. The law prohibits any organization or group with interfering with a teacher choosing their representation. TEA fully supports this aspect of the law and does not interfere with representation.
You can find your legislator's contact information here. Please call and email your representatives regarding these two bills ASAP.