Friday, November 16, 2012

Educational Choice Prospects in Tennessee

Education reformers around the country have eyes on—and investments in—Tennessee being the next state to greatly expand educational choice.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Editorial Support: The editorial board of Memphis’ Commercial Appeal published an editorial in support of vouchers on Thursday, calling on both sides of the voucher debate to “stop and consider: What is best for kids?”  The editorial supports expanding educational choice in Tennessee through enacting a voucher program for children from low-income families:
When you think about the kids first, allowing public money to fund vouchers to any school, public or private, begins to make more sense.

Many issues must be resolved, but the basic notion of letting Memphis kids of all income brackets have a shot at the best education they can find, by using the money the state already has set aside to educate them, is an idea worth serious consideration

  • Political Spending: In the 2012 election cycle, education reform groups outspent the teachers unions in Tennessee legislative races, demonstrating a strong swing toward reform over the status quo.  The Tennessee Federation for Children PAC, a state-based affiliate of the American Federation for Children Action Fund spent nearly $250,000 supported Democrats and Republicans who stand for educational choice. They invested in independent expenditures in 18 general election races, emerging victorious in 15 of those races.
  • Bipartisan Support: The Tennessee Legislature has broad bipartisan support for enacting a voucher program, with strong leaders including Senator Brian Kelsey (R) and Representatives John DeBerry (D) and Tony Shipley (R).
  • Education Task Force: The Education Task Force set up by Governor Bill Haslam to study how a voucher program would work in Tennessee concluded this week with recommendations on options to establish a voucher program.  The report will be delivered to the Governor in two weeks.  While the Task Force has been mum on many details, the group did recommend that a voucher program should be designed for students from low-income families and that participating private schools must be held to high accountability standards.
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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