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Teachers' union responds to Haslam's voucher plan

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In his State of the State address Monday night, Gov. Bill Haslam devoted a lot of time to public education but left the audience with a mixed message on his plans for schools, according to officials with the Tennessee Education Association.

“While I am pleased that the governor devoted such a large portion of his address to public education, it is troubling to see his voucher agenda moving forward,” said Gera Summerford, a Sevier County teacher, who serves as president of the union.

Although Haslam spoke emphatically about his commitment to public education, Summerford said his decision to take money from public schools for private schools is troubling because it "sends a very mixed message."

“School voucher programs divert critical funding from public schools," she said Tuesday in a press release. "Tennessee public schools have among the top graduation rates in the country and, at the same time, one of the lowest rates of funding per student, thereby demonstrating their efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars.

"On the other hand, school voucher programs in other states have wasted taxpayer money by supporting substandard and unaccredited programs due to inadequate oversight. No credible study or research has ever proven the effectiveness of school vouchers or demonstrated any improvement in student achievement over public schools."

Summerford said she believes school vouchers also leave many students behind, including those with the greatest need, because these types of programs divert tax dollars to private entitties that are not required to accept all students.

“In the more than 50 years since school vouchers were first proposed, vouchers still remain controversial, unproven and unpopular,” she said.

Although Summerford, speaking on behalf of the teachers union criticized his voucher proposal, she did praise Haslam for allocating more funds to education.

“We applaud the governor’s continued effort to direct more money to public schools, but let’s not take one step forward and two steps back," she said. "It is not the taxpayer’s job to support private entities. Let’s keep public money in public schools, supporting initiatives like the governor’s proposal to update technology and improve school safety."

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Bill Haslam, Education, General Assembly, Politics, School Vouchers, TEA, Tennessee, Tennessee Education Association
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Members Opinions:
January 30, 2013 at 7:07am
The rhetoric about public eduction in Tennessee seems to be contradictory and confusing. Comparing State spending per pupil on a national grid without comparing per capita income and cost of living as factors is slanting information. How can a State with one of the highest graduation rates nationally have a population where 44% cannot read above the 3rd grade level and (I believe) that the study showed that about 1/4 were high school grads? I can remember years ago when "Church Schools" were considered a second class" education, not so today. Private schools are successful because the parents of the children attending them have a financial interest in the school and are motivated to be "hands on" parents when it comes to education their child. The day of a strong PTA group in grade schools seems to have faded. High school parents are directed more and more to be fund raisers for each sport,band, drama club, cheer leaders etc. Another thing about private schools seems to be that they are not under pressure to be as "politically correct" as public schools and don't seem as prone to "social promotions" If a child is not promotable they don't pass to the next grade and the tuition paying parent leans on the student, not the teacher or the system.
February 01, 2013 at 8:08pm
It's very important to keep in mind that teacher's Unions represent the interests of teachers, not the students. The unions have strongly opposed charter schools and vouchers for several reasons: (1) it diverts money from public schools, which is where almost all of their members teach, (2) if parents and students are given vouchers, they will leave 'failing schools,' which threatens the job security of the teachers working in the failing schools, and (3) teacher's unions have a very liberal social agenda, and they want your child in a public school to they can indoctrinate your child into their liberal ideology.

I've seen teacher's unions sacrifice the public school students time and time again for their own personal gain. It's so sad. If you've never watched the movie 'Waiting for Superman,' you should. It's a great movie that shows how little concern the teacher's unions have for children in general.
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