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Voucher bill could fund Muslim schools

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Voucher bill could fund Muslim schools | ICM, Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Religion, Education, Bill Haslam, Bill Ketron, Jim Tracy, Politics, Public Policy, Tennessee, Islam, Nashville International Academy, Southern Association of Colleges and 
Schools, Rutherford County, General Assembly

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed voucher bill could send taxpayer dollars to private schools. If passed, students at religious schools could receive public funding.
A pair of proposals rapidly moving through the Tennessee General Assembly could potentially divert tax dollars currently allocated to public schools to Islamic private schools, and two Rutherford County senators are raising concerns about the legislation.

“This is an issue we must address,” state Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) said. “I don’t know whether we can simply amend the bill in such a way that will fix the issue at this point.”

State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Tracy each expressed their concerns Friday over Senate Bill 0196, commonly called the “School Voucher Bill” and sponsored by fellow Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville), which would give parents of children attending failing public schools a voucher with which to enroll in a private school.

State monies that would otherwise be spent on educating the student in public schools would then be diverted to qualifying private schools to pay private tuition for the student, in whole or in part.

Islamic schools throughout the state, including Nashville and Memphis where several of Tennessee’s lowest performing schools are located, would qualify to receive such students under the state-funded voucher program.

One such Islamic school, the Nashville International Academy, states that its vision is “to create a positive learning environment where students are committed to the teachings of the Quran and example of Prophet Muhammad.”

The school is located on Charlotte Pike and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which qualifies it as a Category III private school through Tennessee statutes.

Other such schools include the Clara Muhammad School, a division of the Nation of Islam that operates a school in Nashville among its 74 other locations, and the Anoor Academy of Knoxville.

The voucher bill, which is a high-priority initiative by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, includes Category I, II, and III private schools as beneficiaries of state dollars through the proposed program.

All SACS-accredited institutions qualify as Category III schools under current state law, and Pleasant View School, an Islamic school in Memphis, has already made application for accreditation and expects approval in June, Assistant Principal Calvin Shaw said.

A competing bill, House Bill 190, would expand Haslam’s voucher proposal statewide instead of limiting the program to the worst performing school districts.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has previously expressed interest in chartering its own Islamic school as well.

Tracy, a member of the Senate Education Committee, expressed “considerable concern” with directing tax dollars to Islamic schools, but he said disallowing Category III schools would also disqualify private schools, such as Montgomery Bell Academy, Ensworth and Harpeth Hall, all of which qualify for the program through SACS accreditation as well.

Ketron, who sponsored anti-Shariah Law legislation in 2009, said the voucher bills have advanced too quickly in the legislature this year and more consideration is needed on the measure.

“This issue gives me pause in voting for the governor’s voucher proposal,” he said. “These issues warrant further assessment.”

“What’s the rush? Do we need to send these proposals to summer study (committee)?” he questioned.

HB190 comes before the Senate Government Operations Committee and House Finance Subcommittee next week, with special interest groups such as StudentsFirst of Tennessee advocating for its passage with the hiring of multiple lobbyists and several media buys in key markets across the state.

“Though we have cleared some big obstacles, there are still more hurdles to go,” according to a recent StudentsFirst e-mail plea. “We are not across the finish line yet, but with your continued help we will get there.”
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Bill Haslam, Bill Ketron, Education, General Assembly, ICM, Islam, Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Jim Tracy, Nashville International Academy, Politics, Public Policy, Religion, Rutherford County, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Tennessee
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Members Opinions:
March 31, 2013 at 6:18am
What's your point?
March 31, 2013 at 8:21am
The point is that this is a Republican bill and the writer of this article is an avowed Democrat looking for fly poop in the pepper.
March 31, 2013 at 1:24pm
When Republicans pressed for this bill that will essentially take away funds from public schools and give our tax dollars to support private Christian schools, it didn't occur to them that Islamic schools will also qualify to take voucher students? Now, out of their irrational fear of Muslims, they are trying to find a legal way to funnel money to Christian schools while shutting down taxpayer support for non-Christian schools. Wow, just wow! How embarrassing for Rutherford County--once again.
April 01, 2013 at 8:12am
Republicans who should know better are determined to fund private schools and destroy public education. They are now surprised that their ineptitude has left open a loophole for a group they don't like. Fair is fair. Funny how the Constitution keeps tripping them up. What a bunch of idiots. Let's do the right thing and keep public money in public schools - period. Much better than spending public money on schools who will not have to meet standards or have any type of regulation over the quality of education they provide.
April 01, 2013 at 8:25am
I am amazed at how people are so stuck on either side of the political party line. It doesn't matter if they are democrat or republican because it's all about the money for them. These bogus and idiotic "bills" that are being proposed are crippling our state and nation. I personally do not want to see my tax dollars going to private schools, much less, an islamic private school and it doesn't matter to me if it is a democrat or republican that is writing the proposal.
April 01, 2013 at 9:17pm
We are blessed to have good public schools in Rutherford County. That's not true throughout the entire state though, and that's why this bill is important. As I understand it, vouchers would only be provided to students in failing public schools. I would be willing to bet a large sum that all of you decrying the use of vouchers don't have children in a failing school. If you did, I believe you would be singing a different tune.

My thinking has changed dramatically about this over the years. I used to believe that funding public schools should be a top priority. While I still believe public schools play a very important function, I now believe it's more important to put the children first. Children should not be forced to serve the schools (by providing the school funding through forced attendance of students), but rather the schools should be serving the children. If they fail to do so (by not providing a high-quality education), students should be provided an opportunity to attend a different school at taxpayer expense. In fact, I'm now at the point where I believe it is morally wrong to knowingly force children to remain in a failing school.

If you have never seen it, you should watch the movie 'Waiting for Superman.' It chronicles the cases of several families desperately trying to get vouchers to escape failing public schools. It will open your eyes.
April 02, 2013 at 8:43am
If the State is issuing the vouchers, the schools should have certain subjects they can teach. If the schools don't talk about God then the muslims can't talk about allah. And, when it comes to law, The American laws should be taught not Sharia. If the muslims can't do this, then they must fund their own schools. If you take our money you must follow our curriculum.
April 03, 2013 at 12:25pm
MariJohns....there are plenty of private schools in Middle Tennessee run by faith-based organizations and are teaching Christianity. Why then, shouldn't a Muslim-based school be able to teach about Allah?

Maybe they should rename and refile the bill and call it the "White Christian People's School Voucher Program."
April 03, 2013 at 1:58pm
When are people going to realize that the "God" and "Allah" are the same damn thing? And who cares?! If you were planning on opening this up to "faith-based schools", then "YES"... that means, ANY FAITH.
April 04, 2013 at 9:36am
LuckyDog, this article is obviously not about the quality of education, but let me respectfully disagree on the way your thinking has changed. Let's not use the excuse "Children First."

Many prestigious private schools are already full to the brim, with long waiting lists even for those who can afford them. Do you honestly believe they're going to admit "any" child? Even if all the children in TN qualified for vouchers to attend better schools, they'll still be on long waiting lists. Just like businesses, private institutions may be forced to meet a quota to show they are not discriminating. That quota can literally be met with two children!

Let's be realistic. Private schools, be they academic- or religious-based are privately funded for reasons. No matter what their reasoning is -- they do not deserve to have a penny of the state or government money. Likewise, you're going to have parents with children already enrolled in private schools looking to take them out again -- perhaps resorting to homeschooling them -- to get them away from the public school systems.
April 04, 2013 at 3:36pm
Geana -- How stupid of me to raise the 'Children First' argument. I suppose your argument is that we should put the tenured teachers and administrators in the failing public schools first. We certainly don't want them to lose their jobs! If the students in the failing public schools get a third rate education that will disadvantage them for life, so be it. At least we didn't allow one precious dime of public tax dollars to end up at a private school!

As for your argument about long wait lists at private schools, not all private shcools have wait lists. There are many private schools looking for students. Plus, if more students had options to go to private schools, more private/charter schools would be created. Supply and demand really does work in the real world.

I still can't believe that people, such as yourself, are so opposed to helping these kids in failing public schools. If my child was stuck in a failing public school, I would do whatever I could to get him/her out. And I want the same for any child in a failing public school. As I said in my earlier post, I believe it is morally wrong not to help them escape.
April 04, 2013 at 4:33pm
Let's not make assumptions here who cares about children or not. The voucher bill was thrown out and rightfully so. But I'll agree with the first sentence in your reply. You called it yourself ;)
April 04, 2013 at 5:24pm
People who are willing to force kids to stay in failing public schools don't care about those kids. No assumptions necessary.
April 05, 2013 at 9:11am
We live in a Red State, LuckyDog. If you haven't figured out by now that you're living in a state which doesn't want to support any programs that give something to someone for free "unless" the recipients are Christian or enrolled in Christian-based programs -- then we may as well be in Kansas with Dorothy and Toto.

As far as your "forced-to-stay" argument goes, this is a state that allows home-schooling, zone waivers, does not collect separate school taxes, etc. which other states do not allow. Moot point.
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