"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bill Haslam's School Choice

Having bought his way into the Tennessee Governor's Office with the reputation as a kinder and gentler sort of oligarch, Bill Haslam still has that much to prove at the state level.  With his own treasure to spend from his Pilot Oil empire, Haslam has demonstrated so far is that he is at least more cautiously back room in his operations than the other right-wing gubernatorial puppets put in place by the Koch Boys last year to dismantle public institutions. 

Haslam's more guarded approach to dragging government to the bathtub to drown it represents the most dangerous kind of post-partisan maneuvering, whereby both sides of the aisle of the corporate jet come together to toast the reign of corporate government and the further aggrandizement and continued control by the 1%ers. 

In terms of education policy, the former neolib Gov. Bredesen handed off to Haslam a plan designed by the Gates, Broad, and Walton Foundations and approved by their boy, Duncan, to make Tennessee the poster state for corporate education "reform," from uncapped charter growth to unceasing value-added testing to replacement of urban professional teachers by the TFA missionaries to the unfettered growth of online diploma mills for high school kids. 

The dusting off of another reform of 50 years ago, school vouchers, has left Haslam in somewhat of a pickle.  If Tennessee is going to follow the BRT script for unrestrained charter growth, dependent as such a plan will be on tax dollars to fund these unregulated and segregated corporate-run testing camps, then can TN, without a state income tax and with sales tax maxed out at around 10% (with local options), afford to open the door to another drain on the state coffers, as vouchers surely will be?  And with larger political aspirations than the Governor's Mansion, can Haslam afford to make 99% of Tennesseans poorer than they already are?  Especially in a year when the football Vols do not have the citizenry in a distracted lather for a championship of some sort? 

I would guess that Haslam will say no to a voucher battle this year, preferring instead to appear moderate to anyone who does not know that school vouchers are entirely unnecessary to get where the Oligarchs want education to go.  If such a scenario unfolds, no doubt the state NEA affiliate will declare victory, dress up, and go to lunch as always.  From the Tennessean:
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is still weighing the pros and cons of a school vouchers proposal, and doesn’t plan to announce his position on the measure until close to the end of the year.

The Republican governor told members of the Nashville Rotary Club on Monday he expects school vouchers to be “one of the most contentious issues” in the legislative session that begins in January. His recommendation will be made, he said, in 30 or 45 days.

“Like everything else, decisions aren’t always easy,” Haslam said. “As a good lawyer will say, ‘I can argue both sides of that case.’ ”

Haslam said he understands the motivations for creating school vouchers for children in failing schools.

“The idea that parents having the choice for what’s best for their child makes a lot of sense,” he said. “

But Haslam said he’s also taking into account opposition by the school districts in the state’s four largest cities and questions about whether private schools would pick up the tab for the balance of tuition not covered by the vouchers.

'Do our homework'

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to at least do our homework and see how would the voucher system affect existing systems,” Haslam said.

Haslam said he’s also sensitive to arguments that the state has in the last two years undergone a series of sweeping changes in education, and that the introduction of school vouchers could confuse matters.

A Republican-sponsored bill to create a school voucher program for students in the state’s four largest counties to attend private or religious schools passed the Senate earlier this year, but was deferred in the House until next session.

Sponsors said the measure is designed to help children from low-income families get out of failing schools and find the school that best meets their needs.

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