Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 2, 2013

Board opposes changes to charter schools, voucher system

Board votes against appointed director of schools resolution

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County Board of Education approved resolutions opposing legislation changing laws for charter schools or a voucher program in Tennessee.

The resolutions were requested by the Tennessee School Boards Association prior to the start of the 2013 session of the Tennessee General Assembly. A third resolution requested by the TSBA in support of appointed directors of schools failed to gain support of the board in a 5-4 vote.

Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, said, "There's a real pattern of people trying to divert the limited funds we have for education into these other forms of education. It needs to be stopped.

"We don't fund education the way it needs to be funded now and people move to give that out to charters and private schools. It's atrocious what they're doing."

The first resolution states the board "opposes any legislation to create a statewide or alternate authorizer for charter schools that would bypass locally elected boards of education and usurp the responsibilities entrusted to them by their constituencies."

David Bowman, 7th District representative, moved to approve the resolution, supported by Josh Stone, 4th District representative. The motion was approved with Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, voting no.

The school voucher resolution said the board "opposes any legislation or other similar effort to create a voucher program in Tennessee that would divert money intended for public education to private schools."

The resolution notes the state's constitution calls for the state of Tennessee to "provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools," and that vouchers would eliminate public accountability by using tax dollars for private schools that are not subject to the same academic standards as public schools, do not make budgets public and are not subject to open meeting and open record laws.

Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, said, "They don't have to go by the same rules we do."

Bowman moved to support the resolution, supported by Stone.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appointed a voucher task force last year to study school vouchers to advance "school choice" by providing vouchers for public dollars that would allow students to attend private schools. The panel says vouchers should be accepted by schools in full, and not require additional funds for students to attend a private school, but did not recommend a dollar value for the vouchers.

Haslam has said he isn't sure if his administration will introduce voucher legislation in the coming session, but he does expect a bill to be filed. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said he thinks there are school systems where a voucher program is needed.

The Cumberland County school board unanimously agreed to oppose such legislation.

A resolution that would have supported continued appointments of directors of schools for Tennessee public schools failed to garner board support.

Bowman moved the board not support the TSBA resolution, supported by Brewer.

Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, voted no, along with Stone, Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative; and Tollett, adding he was casting an "emphatic no."

The motion passed.