Jan 14 2013
04:11 pm

Tom Humphrey:

Gov. Bill Haslam said today he will push for enactment during this year's legislative session of voucher system that would be limited to lower-income students in the "lowest-performing schools."

Big Al's picture

Katie Allison-Granju?

I seem to recall a compelling article in MetroPulse by KAG supporting vouchers but it's been too long for old mind to recall. Maybe she could post it here?

Bbeanster's picture


lonnie's picture



Tamara Shepherd's picture


Gov. Bill Haslam said today he will push for enactment during this year's legislative session of (a) voucher system that would be limited to lower-income students in the "lowest-performing schools."

Kind of like how the original (2002) charter school law opened charters to only at-risk student populations?

Then the (2010) thrust became "choice" for all--who could afford Great Hearts Academy's "recommended" donation?

Stick's picture

Exactly. This will open the

Exactly. This will open the door and that is what this legislation is designed to do.

The big idea floating around the echo chamber of think tanks, advoacy groups and philanthropic organizations these days is that the new common core assessment will lead to more 'failing schools' in suburban communities and make middle class parents more open to the idea of vouchers, charters, etc. The 'reformers' (sic) are thinking long term and have been for some time, as in since the Reagan administration.

I'll post on it as we get closer to the date, but UT's graduate school of education will be hosting a panel discussion in March down in Happy Holler on the topic of vouchers and charter schools. I don't know much about the work of the other panelists, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Elwood Aspermonte's picture

This is why they took Jamie Hagood out when they did

In my opinion, she was a component of the Tennessee Education Association and to support her financial constitutency, she would have had to go against her party and her governor. Suspect that the senate district is evenly divided on this issue across the predicable grounds, but we may never know.

Onward, on a positive note, this would appear to be a piece of legislation which does not involve the possession, use, or carrying of a firearm in the state of Tennessee and perhaps we've seen the last gun legislation after having had nothing but a diet of Tennessee gun legislation for the past 4 years.

Min's picture

Do you mean Jamie Woodson?

Because she sure as hell was no friend of the TEA.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Thanks, Betty. I didn't remember the piece, but searched for it and couldn't find it...

Al, I'd make two points about Katie's column:

1) I wonder if any parents whose children are not enrolled in their locale's public school system can be particularly cognizant of the level of public school choice within that system, or even within their own zoned public schools?

2) Because I note that Katie wrote that piece in 2002, I also wonder if she is today more impressed with the level of public school choice within KCS and her own community's schools, given how much wider that choice is now? Magnets, the STEM school, IB and AP programs? Dual enrollment? NCLB-mandated tutoring and transfer options? Transfer options outside NCLB? Lots has changed in the last ten years...

In 2002 or now, though (and I've had kids in our public schools throughout that time span), I have never found our local public school system to be "generally mediocre and monolithic," although, sadly, some of its students and parents may be.

Like any other experience, we'll get out of our public school experience pretty much what we're willing to put into it.

What our family has gotten out of the experience has been immense.

(EDIT: And though I'm not trying to draw her into this debate, my recollection is that the team of Fulton High School and Momma Bbeanster produced a class salutatorian, too.)

Rachel's picture

I suspect Katie's opinions

I suspect Katie's opinions are a bit different now. If I'm not mistaken she now has personal experience with both magnet and IB programs.

Hope she'll come on KV and give us her current insights.

Bbeanster's picture

Katie was also speaking from

Katie was also speaking from a purely middle-class perspective: i.e., it would be nice if she could use some of her tax money to pay private school tuition. I doubt $2,500 @ would go far enough to allow most families to afford those schools.

And, yeah, my son is a proud Fulton High graduate. He worked 40 hours a week his junior and senior year and still managed to be salutatorian. My daughter went to Catholic -- had help from grandparents for that. They both went to public schools in grades 1-9 (they went to private K) and they've both done just fine.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


As to Katie's earlier observation that our public schools are/were "generally mediocre and monolithic," I wonder if her household was then zoned for any Project Grad schools?

Concerning PG elementary schools, I recall that when I first began participating here about six years ago, fellow poster Doug McDaniels used to complain bitterly about his son's zoned PG elementary school.

It was Doug who first brought to my attention that the "one size fits all" reading and math curricula PG elementary schools then delivered didn't necessarily "fit" every student who happened to live in the school zone--and certainly didn't "fit" his son.

He was absolutely right, of course, and KCS soon abolished both the PG elementary schools' Sucess for All Reading and Move It Math programs. These KCS replaced with the school system's own leveled reading and math programs, more adaptable to students' individual abilities.

Doug's frustration, though, was that it took KCS a few years to adopt these changes. Given that a child's elementary school years number exactly six (including kindergarten), he was understandably irked that his own student was so ill-placed for so long. Half the child's elementary years, maybe?

I do understand why, during that era, Doug chose to enroll his son in private school.

One of my biggest concerns about this explosive period of "ed reform" now underway is that it, too, bodes widespread experimentation with kids whose years in the public school system are, after all, finite.

So if/when all these experiments fail...what to do about the matriculating student who received inadequate benefit as a lab rat???

Bbeanster's picture

I agree, Tamara. It's an

I agree, Tamara. It's an individual decision that families must make.

R. Neal's picture

I've noticed there isn't

I've noticed there isn't enough choice in gas/beer/cig/carb/lotto outlets in East Tennessee. The lack of competition is stifling innovation and beer selection.

The obvious solution is to make Pilot give up half their revenues to pay for vouchers that consumers can use at competing gas/beer/cig/carb/lotto outlets. This would promote consumer choice and help attract a better class of gas/beer/cig/carb/lotto outlets such as 7-11.

bizgrrl's picture



bizgrrl's picture

I know of quite a few

I know of quite a few families that went to Knox County public schools through the years. One thing I found is that parental involvement made a huge difference in the success of the students. Involvement was in the child's learning at the public school, not in moving to a private school.

AnonymousOne's picture

I don't think Haslam's intent

I don't think Haslam's intent is for big business to profit from the choice scheme.

Nah, I think it's simpler than that, and therein lies its weakness as a proposal and the dangers.

What it really is, is an issue to flash his conservative street creds in his ongoing positioning to ready himself for any possible opportunities in 2016.

That's it.

Real conservatives know this and will exploit it, thereby running the risk that this is one of those proposals that if you're not careful, it can get away from you real fast and open a Pandora's Box of unintended consequences.

Plus, he probably just opened up a rift with many of his more liberal supporters, while trying to use it as an outreach to the lower income demographic.

He may have painted himself into a rather tight corner.

But we'll see how the Tennessee media let's him slide.

stalwartdem's picture

the voucher thing will show us what Haslam is made of

I largely agree with Anonymous One. the question is whether haslam can work behind the scene to mold a voucher program to his own concept,or will a plan will land on his desk that he may have to actually (GASP!) VETO.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I don't think Haslam's intent is for big business to profit from the choice scheme.

When the big business that is private education is handed on a platter a new customer base carrying a potential repeat sales value equal to 42% of the state's total tax revenues, billions and billions in annual sales for year after year...that big business is going to profit.

Haslam knows full well he's dangling The Big Enchilada.

AnonymousOne's picture

I don't think private

I don't think private education is 'big business."

In many localities, especially rural, the only private schools are church schools. Yes, there are some big ones in Knox County, but in other counties, I don't think it's that big a group.

Where's the money? Contractors, consultants, software and computer "experts," used by public schools Quotes mean I'm using the word loosely.

No, this is mainly an offering to the Campfield constituency, a minor, but symbolic, offering to disadvantaged groups, and a notch he can carve in his national/political gun belt.

Stick's picture

Education is big business.

Education is big business. There are lots of players in the field with lots of capital. If you're interested in learning more look up Joel Spring. He's done a lot of work on this topic.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


AO and Stalwart, don't be misled by the fact that the voucher plan under discussion this session would likely (but maybe not) be open just to at-risk youth.

Read up on the smattering of states to have thus far developed voucher programs and you'll better understand what Stick is saying about this session's law being just a "foot in the door."

First states offer the voucher to just this narrow population (which doesn't work because they're too poor to make up the difference in private school tuition cost). Next they expand the eligible population. Next they start dropping accountablity and reporting requirements for private schools.

There's an easity discerned pattern underway here. Read up at the National Conference of State Legislatures, for starters, and spend some time at that distasteful Heritage Foundation site, too, to understand what it is these folks really want.

(Hint: Since we saw Haslam pow-wow with Jeb Bush last week, you may want to start your research on Florida's voucher system, which began just this same way. You'll see that that state now offers tax deductions to corporations extending private school scholarships and that the state also exempts private schools from any requirement to administer standardized tests to its students--as do three other states, these days. Legislators are making these changes incrementally.)

Min's picture


Florida's voucher system is a giant tax revenue boondoggle and a complete disaster for its public education system.

Also, I would point out that charter schools in Tennessee started the same way...a capped number of schools to serve only at-risk students. It didn't take long, before the legislature expanded the law to removed the cap and include all students as potential charter school students.

Rachel's picture

Frank Cagle spells it out.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Frank is full of surprises, isn't he? Thanks for the link.

Rachel's picture

I find myself agreeing more

I find myself agreeing more and more with Frank these days. If I'm turning into an old curmudgeon, there are worse role models.

Pam Strickland's picture

Very good. I don't always

Very good. I don't always read him because sometimes he can make me crazy, but this is good stuff.

cwg's picture


I'm going to pimp my story in this week's MP, which goes into more detail about Rhee, Jeb Bush, and some other stuff.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Stanardized assessments?

Good background, Cari. Thanks.

I didn't understand this section, though:

On Monday Bush said the state had made the “greatest learning gains in the country” thanks to his reforms, which have now become the basis for his non-profit work. But several reports have called those gains into question. A Reuters investigation last fall pointed out that the test scores, which dramatically increased while Bush was in office, have dropped in recent years, and high-school graduation rates still lag behind other large, diverse states such as California and Ohio. Critics also note that studies commissioned by the state have not shown low-income students who use vouchers to attend private schools to have higher test scores than their peers.

A recap of states' various voucher programs at the site for the National Conference of State Legislatures says that Florida doesn't require students accepting vouchers to attend private schools to take any of their state's standardized assessments?

(In fact, the site says there are a few states that exempt the private school voucher students from assessments?)

I wonder which piece of information is older, the "studies commissioned by the state" that your article mentions, or this info I'm looking at at the NCSL website?

cwg's picture

That info came from a Reuters

That info came from a Reuters report:

Some recent research has cast doubt on the long-term effectiveness of the Bush policies.

A Harvard education research group reported this summer that Florida students who were held back in third grade notched a big boost in test scores initially, but the effects faded to insignificance before they entered high school. And annual studies commissioned by the state have found no evidence that low-income students who receive vouchers to attend private schools do any better at reading or math than their peers.

I found a couple of other stories that said the same thing and cited other reports. But with a quick turnaround, didn't have time to track down the actual reports in question. Working on that for a follow-up.

Pam Strickland's picture

It was a very good story,

It was a very good story, Cari.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I didn't mean to create work for you with my idle question (blush).

It may be that these "annual studies commissioned by the state" are not, in fact, the same standardized tests that all Florida's public school students are required to take?

I'll try to poke around LexisNexis tomorrow and see if I can discern any new state law requiring the private school voucher kids to now take the same standardized tests the public school kids take.

(And if I shouldn't return here to post my findings, it means I'm too much a novice to have successfully navigated the Florida code.)

Min's picture

Has anyone considered the fiscal note on this?

This has the potential of driving up education costs, since parents who currently have their children enrolled in private schools (ostensibly to escape low-performing schools) could re-enroll their children in public schools in order to receive the tax subsidy for a voucher.

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