In December, the Knox County school board voted (again) to oppose school vouchers. The vote was 8-1 with only District 8 member Mike McMillan dissenting. Read the resolution here.
This week, five of those board members made the trip to Nashville to register their objections to Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher bill (now watered down and dubbed an Education Savings Account, which will provide up to $7,300 annual assistance to students who meet income guidelines) as it started its legislative journey in the House Curriculum, Testing & Innovation subcommittee.
House sponsor Bill Dunn made his presentation, which took about an hour, and didn’t mention that his hometown school board opposes vouchers – by whatever name they are called. See Dunn’s presentation here.
Patti Bounds, who lives in Dunn’s district, is ticked that legislators haven’t been informed about the board’s opposition to vouchers.
“We passed a resolution by an overwhelming majority months ago to get it down to Nashville on time. Jennifer Owen (the resolution’s author) specified that she wanted it to go to all legislators, but it never got there. So, she hand-delivered it and was very disappointed to learn that someone made the decision to send it to only our (Knox County delegation). Next time we pass one of these resolutions, we need to be very specific and make sure it goes to everybody, although truthfully, I don’t know that it would change Bill Lee’s decision – but at least he’d know.”
Bounds also disapproves of Lee’s plan to install a state charter school authorization board (state law already makes it difficult for local boards to reject charter school applications).
“Here’s the bottom line: It takes away local control and just gives too much power to the governor, who already appoints the commissioner of education and the state board of education. Now he will appoint the new commission for charter authorizing and we’ll create another nine positions and a big salary for the person who administers it. If you approve nine people, they’ll approve whatever comes their way,” Bounds said.
Owen said she’s feeling very disheartened.
“It feels a lot like it felt in 2011-12, right before they took teacher tenure away, but it’s different, though – hard to describe. When teachers were there during spring break in 2011, some of them were in tears. One legislator turned around, looked at them and literally laughed in their faces. This time, they’re still doing the same things, but not so overtly.”
Owen said that the notion that the state board of education can override the authorizing board is a sham.
“Here’s the little tricky part in that authorizer bill: State board of education has only overturned the board’s decision on three charter schools.”
She referred to the state’s penchant in recent years for taking over inner-city schools in Memphis and quoted a quip state Rep. Antonio Parkinson addressed to representatives of smaller counties:
“Now everybody gets to taste the medicine that Memphis has been tasting for a long time.”