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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TN's Cheap Choice School Model for the Needy

Last spring Tennessee passed a limited school voucher bill that offers just over $6,000 per year to disabled students who, otherwise, would attend public schools.  Ostensibly, the purpose of the legislation was to give parents more educational choices for their special needs children.

When we consider, however, that the best private schools for special needs students like the Curry Ingram Academy in Brentwood costs $38,000 per year, what kind of educational services can parents hope to find with their $6,000 voucher? Something marginal at best.

Since private schools are not bound by federal requirements, these bargain basement vouchers are only available to students whose parents are willing to give up most of their educational rights secured by IDEA. Governor Haslam was quick to sign the bill into law.

This year Haslam and his privatizing Tea Party allies in the General Assembly have the same morally-bankrupt voucher deal ready for the children of Tennessee's poorest parents.  It offers a $6,500+ voucher to parents whose children attend the highest-poverty schools to go shopping for a marginal private school education, minus any oversight or regulations to guarantee teaching and learning quality.  And the average tuition cost for private schools in Tennessee is about $1,500 more than the voucher provides.

Hot breakfast and lunch provided in these marginal private schools?  Forget it.

To borrow from Jonathan Kozol, the day that Tennessee conservatives are willing to give every poor child in Tennessee a $30,000 voucher to attend Ensworth School or Montgomery Bell Academy, that's the day I will become a Republican.

Until such time, we should all call publicly out the hypocrites in the state legislature who mouth words about helping poor children, as they continue to refuse to provide full funding of the Basic Education Program for Tennessee's public school children.  Tennessee's abysmal record for funding public schools (ranks 47th in 2015) goes hand-in-hand with the legislative determination to further limit better educational options in the name of a phony cheap choice.


  1. Do kids in TN have to be poor to get a voucher, or is the program a subsidy for those who can afford more expensive schools?

    1. In this year's bill that has been introduced and is winding its way through, students must be from the poorest and, thus, poorest scoring schools.