Columnists: Vouchers leave kids on a sinking ship

Columnists at opposite ends of the state — Frank Cagle in the Knoxville News Sentinel and David Waters in the Commercial Appeal of Memphis — both have written pieces calling for defeat of pending voucher legislation. Both compare public schools to a sinking ship and vouchers as a means to save a few of those aboard, but not the rest.

From Cagle:

Imagine a ship filled with children. It has a hole in the hull and is being kept afloat with pumps and bailing. Imagine rescuers arriving with a few lifeboats. They have two options. They can board the ship, man the pumps and repair the hole. Of they can sit in the lifeboats and allow the most physically fit of the youngsters to climb down to be rescued. Then they sail away and leave the most vulnerable of the kids to their fate.

Let’s call the ship a failing public school and the lifeboats, call them the vouchers.

…The pro-voucher groups have tons of out-of-state money provided by eccentric billionaires who hate public education and “teacher unions.” Their ultimate goal is to kill public education and replace it with “the private sector.” A House member will need courage to vote against people who can dump six-figure contributions to a potential opponent.

But you can expect anti-voucher election brochures pointing out that you voted to take education funds from kids in your district to fund Muslim schools in Memphis and Nashville. Parents in Louisiana were shocked to discover that the state can’t pick and choose which religious schools to fund. If you do vouchers for Catholic schools you are also doing them for any other religious school.

…I don’t think we ought to fund Muslim schools, nor do I think we ought to fund Catholic schools. But if we do we have to ensure that the schools are teaching what they ought to be teaching, not anti-semitism and homophobia.

I would ask House members to ask themselves if the folks back home in their districts are clamoring for vouchers for Memphis and Nashville. If they aren’t, should you be for them?

Kill vouchers because it’s the right thing to do. Or kill them because you are scared. Or kill them because the folks in your district don’t want them. But kill them.

From Waters:

State legislators in Nashville are preparing to hand out life vests in Memphis. They call them vouchers.

They claim these vouchers might save several hundred poor kids from sinking public schools here.

We can’t save them all, legislators are saying from the shore. But at least we can save some by tossing them some $5,000 voucher vests.

Meanwhile, countless parents, teachers, principals and volunteers are working feverishly every day on the actual ship to right it.

They know they can’t allow the ship to sink. There are too many kids on board, tens of thousands of them. And there aren’t nearly enough life vests or lifeboats to go around.