Dear True Believers,
Y’all got to be excited! Here you sit on the cusp of making history in Tennessee, despite a few pesky parents, educators, newspaper columnists, members of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, school board members, students, and community members, who can’t appreciate all you do, by this time next week, you’ll be celebrating Tennessee joining the forward-thinking states who have provided a pathway out for all those trapped kids in failing schools. Never mind that vouchers have never worked anywhere else, we all know Tennessee is different. So ignore the haters, this has been a long time coming, and Lord knows, you’ve worked hard for it and deserve it.
Legislators, I have got to say I am really impressed by your willingness to stake your political reputation on the idea of vouchers for the sake of those poor, poor children. Some may say otherwise, but I take it as evidence that you care about all children. Seeing as, for the most part, you will never even interact with these children. People don’t appreciate how expensive running for office every two years is and out-of-state education lobby groups have been extremely generous over the last several years. Heck, last year alone they dropped 260K on your campaigns. A million bucks over the last two years is a lot of cabbage. Especially now that some of you are drawing challengers. Your willingness to make this sacrifice shows that this truly is about the kids.
Now maybe all those lobbyists won’t go away, but just in case they do, one area that you might want to look at for recouping some of your financial losses is in the school building industry. Hear me out, now. We all know that once you take away the religious-affiliated schools, that there are not enough private schools to handle the demand of all these new voucher-carrying students. Luckily, there are already some lobbyist groups ready to step into the void. Now, that may mean sharing some of our children’s personal information, but you knew that was going to happen anyway. How else would we be able to decide who gets a voucher life boat and who doesn’t?
You rural folks, who have done a lot of the heavy lifting on this bill, might be a little worried that you might not get to benefit from this voucher bill. Fear not, I know you are being told that this bill is primarily for those poor kids in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, but let’s look at that a little closer. A lot of people don’t realize that just a couple of students can have a profound effect on a school’s overall grade.
Look at Williamson County, arguably the home of the best schools in the state, and specifically at Fairview Middle School. A few transfer kids with special needs threw off their results enough for them to get classified as a “focus” school. So, if a couple of priority schools in Memphis get rid of 100 or so kids each with their vouchers, then they’ll no longer be in the bottom 5% of schools. But there will always be a bottom 5%. So be on the lookout – Fayette, Maury, Grundy, Hardeman, Hancock, Roane, Sevier, and other counties – any one of you could come off the bench and suddenly become eligible for vouchers.
Do you know what the best part is? Let’s say Swiss Elementary School students were eligible for vouchers, but the parents disagree with the rankings. They believe in their school, and they don’t want to use vouchers to enroll in a private school. Well, that would then mean that any student in Grundy County could now get their private school tuition paid for with taxpayer dollars. Sweet! If those poor kids don’t want it, then it’s yours! Pretty good deal, huh?
Sure the schools in question may lose out on that needed cash to keep the lights on when they lose students because of these vouchers, but as Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) says, “In the end, the adults in (the schools), they’ll be OK, but the kids in them can’t wait.” So if a district loses a school or two to financial hardship brought on by lost funding, or if a great school has to scale back, it is all for the greater good according to Rep. Dunn. I’m assuming that’s why a State Representative from East Tennessee and a few from Williamson County are fighting so hard for a plan that won’t even affect them and runs counter to conservative beliefs, while those who it will affect voted against it. Hey, I saw Waiting for Superman. I know how all this works. Tennessee has spent enough on our schools with limited results, we need to take action.
It does my heart good to see so many putting the needs of so few first. Like Representative Dunn says we need to focus on creating new opportunities for children, not on finances.Now we just have to find a way to get some of that Title I money to follow the kids as well. Maybe we could even move Tennessee up from number three to number one nationally in Charter School growth. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, right? And I wouldn’t let it bother me that Governor Haslam didn’t even mention you in his recent State of the State speech. Probably just slipped his mind. I also wouldn’t worry whether any of this is constitutional or not, because who’s going to ask? Besides, whats one more potential law suit?
So lets inflate the balloons, strap on the party hats, and crank up the Kool and the Gang, because its time to celebrate. Unless, of course, some of those pesky parents, educators, county commissioners, school board members, African American State Representatives from Memphis, students, and community members who can’t appreciate all you do raise too loud of a fuss and stop this bill come Monday. But that will never happen…. or will it? The choice is ours.
A pesky parent