The fight over school vouchers

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

In an op-ed that’s sure to annoy both sides of the school vouchers issue, former Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre says, “Vouchers are coming; make them fair.”

(Frank Cagle, writing in Knox TN Today, suggests vouchers face an uncertain future in this legislative session as Gov. Bill Lee will put more emphasis on vocational training. I’ve seen enough Super Mario cartoons to believe that plumbers and welders can do more than one thing, and I’ll take Lee at his word. He likes vouchers.)

Vouchers, by the way, are public funds assigned to kids who attend private or parochial schools. Proponents of public education argue it’s already strapped for funds. Taking money away won’t make any school better.

Proponents of vouchers argue the wealthy already send their kids to private schools, therefore middle-class and lower-income people should get help to do so as well.

With the mess McIntyre and his ilk have made of public education, it’s easy to see why parents and grandparents are paying tuition to get their kids to a better place. Private schools have more technology, smaller classes and less stress. Most have school uniforms. Kids don’t walk in lines. Lunch is a time to socialize.

So, back to McIntyre.

Writing in the Jan. 11 News Sentinel, he says legislators must look at three things:

Access: “Any school that accepts public funding should be required to have an open admissions process based on a lottery system and give every interested applicant an equal chance to attend.”

Equity: “The dollar amount available for the voucher should be inversely correlated to family income. Students living in poverty should get a larger dollar amount for their voucher than those from a middle-class or wealthy family.”

Accountability: “Any private or religious school accepting vouchers should be required to administer state academic assessments (tests) for all students in their school, submit an annual school improvement plan and have their outcomes published as part of the Department of Education’s annual School Report Card.”

So, McIntyre would install a lottery to assign kids to private schools, would base vouchers on family income with poor kids getting a bigger voucher, and would introduce the high-stakes testing and public shaming that he and his ilk have pushed down on public schools.

Reputable private schools would not accept these conditions, although his ideas would make great amendments to gut legislation that McIntyre calls “inevitable.”

Vouchers are bad public policy. McIntyre’s suggestions don’t make them better.

  • TN Journal reports U.S. Rep. Mark Green is hosting a fundraiser to celebrate his swearing-in. Wow.  It’s Jan. 23 at the Brentwood Country Club – prices range from $2,700 to $100 per couple. Here’s a guy already looking toward the next election.
  • Tim Burchett is at risk for sleeping on his office couch and showering at the gym. He took a pay cut to go to Washington. Yes, the county mayor’s job pays more than Congress. He’s forced to maintain two residences – here and in D.C. He’s been unemployed since September. And, now he’s pledged to take no pay until the government shutdown ends.

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