Tennessee chambers blast Wall Street Journal

In response to a stinging Wall Street Journal editorial, the Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville chambers of commerce have sent a letter to the Journal editor to set the record straight regarding the chambers’ position on the controversial school voucher issue.

The Journal accused the chambers of “joining with the teachers unions to kill education vouchers” in an editorial published on May 13 under the headline: “Tennessee’s Chamber Maids”.

The conspiracy charge is “unfounded” and the Journal opinion piece completely misses the need to ensure that school voucher legislation includes public accountability, the chambers’ letter says.

“The opinion of the Tennessee Education Association has never been a factor in our research or advocacy,” the chamber executives write in a point by point attack on the Journal editorial.

The editorial gets several facts wrong, including the status of the voucher bill, the chambers say.

“The bill was not “killed,” but referred to a Summer Study Committee, which will provide the opportunity to review the bill and its implications more carefully. Lawmakers will assess the experiences of states and school districts with vouchers and understand how to include accountability in such a program. The bill will be among those the House considers when it reconvenes in January 2012. We look forward to being a part of that conversation,” the letter says.

The chambers may be splitting hairs on the bill’s status, but their complaint about the Journal ignoring the accountability issue is legitimate.

” … (W)e clearly stated that a voucher system needs to be debated more thoroughly. Accountability is a critical element in Tennessee’s education reform efforts, and the original bill included no such measures. Spending public dollars at private schools without being able to track student progress and the return on the public’s investment is at issue here,” the chambers say in their letter to the Journal.

Being the target of a Journal editorial had to hurt, but the assertion that the chambers conspired with the teachers union must have really irritated the chamber leaders. The last thing any of them want is to be seen as pro-union.

Read the chambers’ letter here:
Letter to WSJ editor 5-17-11.pdf.