Media Focus on TN Legislature: Mostly Vouchers, Some Other Stuff

Guns, Social Issues Top GOP Agenda Again?
Since the GOP won control of the Tennessee legislature, some of its leaders have chided “the media” for focusing on gun and social legislation that’s dominated the debate, observes Richard Locker in an article that suggests the focus is understandable.
Many serious issues don’t get adequate media review, but it would be hard to make the case about a disproportionate focus on gun and social issues given the number and nature of bills lawmakers have already filed as the new two-year term of the General Assembly gears up.
…By Thursday, 43 bills were filed in the House and 63 in the Senate (most of them duplicates of their “companion” House bills) and a substantial number of them involve firearms and attempts to alter long-standing social policy.

Anti-Voucher Opinion Roundup
From Frank Cagle, a generally conservative columnist, comes this bottom line after a thoughtful review: Education reform? Yes. Vouchers? No.

Pam Strickland says Gov. Bill Haslam’s talk of proposing a school voucher system raises a lot of questions. A sample:
So what about the amount of the voucher? The statewide expenditure per student in 2012 was $9,123, which was 39.2 percent local money, 14.3 percent federal and 46.5 percent state.
Something tells me that we won’t see vouchers at those levels. However, to have any value to our imaginary Sarah Moore Greene family, a voucher would need to be at least in the $7,000 range. And that’s if it’s constitutional to give state money to a parochial school.
A quick review of seven of the better private elementary schools in Knoxville revealed annual tuition ranges from $6,075 to $14,950.

Gail Kerr says the biggest question is accountability for private schools getting public money.
How do you test the children with vouchers to see if they are learning?
If Haslam cannot or will not answer that question, it would be irresponsible for the legislature to pass a voucher system. The task force the governor created last year couldn’t come up with an answer. After months of study, all it came up with was a pile of mush.
The report outlined many choices of how to hold private schools accountable, but didn’t recommend anything. Except that they be held accountable.
The task force didn’t want to acknowledge the elephant under the table: There’s only one fair way. If you’re going to test every public school student in Tennessee with the TCAP system, as is done now, it stands to reason that private schools that choose to accept vouchers should have to use TCAP as well for the students with vouchers. How else can you possibly tell if they are making the gains set out by state standards?
Remember, public school teachers also are now held accountable in their annual evaluations by their students’ TCAP scores.

From a Commercial Appeal editorial:
Tuition vouchers would give students from low-income families or those who attend low-performing public schools a shot at a better education in a private school. No one can argue against that. But over the long term, is there a danger of public schools being undermined by all the initiatives that are pulling students — and the taxpayer money that follows them — out of public school classrooms?

Synthetic Drugs 2.0
A so-called “Synthetics 2.0” bill has been introduced by Tennessee state Rep. Tony Shipley to update measures enacted last year to prosecute synthetic drug sellers and users, reports the Kingsport Times-News.
Shipley’s legislation is a technical corrections bill clarifying the definition of an “analogue controlled substance” and adds new drugs and compounds to a list of synthetic cannabinoids covered in the law.
“We have been working with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation over the last six months, and are confident this drug ingredient update will help us stay ahead of the bad guys,” Shipley, R-Kingsport, said in a prepared release.
Tri-Cities municipal governments, including Kingsport’s, had asked for clean-up language and other new definitions in the law in their legislative wish list recently submitted to lawmakers.
Shipley and state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, both passed bills last year making synthetic drug sellers and makers face felony jail time and fines up to $5,000.

One thought on “Media Focus on TN Legislature: Mostly Vouchers, Some Other Stuff

  1. Eric H

    One very faulty premise in all these “it will be chaos” arguments is that the private schools will participate. Many choose not to deal with the interference and “standards” of the government monopoly schools for good reason. They don’t want the puppet strings.
    Another is the parents of public school students at these schools the authors keep bragging on will for some strange reason voluntarily leave them if offered the chance.
    “How else can you possibly tell if they are making the gains set out by state standards?”
    Maybe Gail should ask Pam Strickland. She apparently knows which are the “better” private schools without all the interference Gail suggests.
    Maybe they could get to work on why Knox County spends 50% more than the low end of those “better” private schools.

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