Quest to force school vouchers on the public

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

There is no question that improving our educational opportunities to offer a productive successful outcome for all public school students is a top priority.

The modus operandi for bringing about an accommodating outcome is contentious and emotional. However, recent support by a Republican-dominated Tennessee legislature with the support of Gov. Bill Lee (who adamantly supports school vouchers) leads the public to believe that school vouchers are forcefully being pushed on us. As it stands now, the bill for school vouchers will apply to only Davidson and Shelby County districts.

Ironically there were some legislators who only voted to support the school vouchers as long as their districts were not included but received requested funding totaling $916,000.

The rationale for those who claim to support vouchers is that they offer parents of students from failing or priority schools a choice: 1) education saving accounts to aid them in covering educational related expenses; or 2) an option to use the $7,300 to go to a private school. But there is no guarantee that that is enough money to cover the tuition for many private schools that have the option to participate.

Some advocates for school vouchers are quick to say parents from failing schools should jump at the opportunity to utilize the school voucher to send their child to a private school—claiming it is a fair and equitable attempt to remedy the problem with failing schools. But is it coincidental that most of these low performing schools are usually found in socio-economically disadvantaged communities and primarily attended by African American students or other students of color suggesting gross disparities of resources? Why wouldn’t a thoughtful, unbiased person be able to see the blatant discriminatory and discretionary practices that contribute to the failure of these schools? These schools are primarily penalized by their location and the students they serve. Anyone should be able to see the real problems plaguing these schools. It’s a no brainer.

The argument from the majority of taxpayers, parents and teachers is that BEP (Basic Education Plan) monies shouldn’t be taken away from public schools but increased to offer whatever resources are needed to make low performing schools successful. This would better serve all communities.

What parent wouldn’t want the schools in their neighborhood to offer all the amenities and resources necessary for their child to be successful and productive? The cry is that all schools should be high performing schools. If not, they should be provided with whatever resources are necessary to make them academically successful.

All children can learn when provided the proper resources, discipline and structure. Aren’t these attainable goals that should be met at any public school? As it stands now there are some schools that have an advantage over others. Many private schools have rules, requirements and qualifications guaranteeing their students success that aren’t options for public schools. Remember public schools take the good, bad, and indifferent. They don’t have the option of getting rid of or permanently expelling students that don’t meet their academic or behavioral expectations. Public schools are expected to accommodate all students. So shouldn’t public schools be given more leeway and resources to accomplish their monumental mission?

Sending children outside their neighborhoods or districts can be argued as being financially advantageous for private entities. But this can also be seen as the first step to privatization of public education, using taxpayers’ dollars. It is conceivable to believe that some avid supporters of school vouchers are lobbyists or even perspective investors looking to financially capitalize off public education monies. One is forced to ponder if public schools are being set up to fail. Taking money away from them is not the answer.

Tennessee legislators have made provisions to temporarily supplement the money taken from priority schools caused by the loss of students, but why not just improve the public schools to keep the students?

You must also consider that we will be rewarding many private schools that originally came into existence to resist court-ordered desegregation.

The school voucher is said to apply to students from priority schools with family incomes of 50,000 or less. But many believe that, in time, well-to-do parents who can afford to send their children to private schools will be able to benefit from school vouchers. One cannot help but question the motives of legislators who adamantly go against the wishes of the majority of the common working people they were elected to represent. Are these legislators working for the public or private entities with hidden agendas? Supporters of school vouchers rationalize that it offers more parents and students options for academic success. But financially investing in our public schools to make them all successful makes everyone winners. Let’s not be blind to the fact that there is an esoteric movement to privatize the public school system.