Tennessee is filled with great school districts doing their best to serve every student that walks through their door. Public schools don't turn children away. They are a public institution that our state constitution requires for us to support with our tax dollars to create Tennessee citizens that contribute to our productive society. In some counties, public schools are the largest employer, the greatest asset, an engine for the economy. Public schools are the center of the community for "Friday Night Lights” football games, a Tennessee tradition and a resource people value.
Governor-elect, we need to let you know we are watching closely. So closely we noticed that folks you are picking for your cabinet or who might be advising you about public ed are anchored to an organization that we question: American Federation for Children (AFC).
We have written about them before. We talk about AFC's role in trying to bring vouchers to the Memphis Jubilee schools. “They’re ready,” said Carra Powell, a lobbyist for Tennessee Federation for Children, and parent of two in Jubilee Schools and one recent graduate. “As soon as the voucher bill is passed, we’re rolling them in.”
That legislation was JUST for those schools — a money grab. Laws to change an entire segment of government, ignoring a valued American principle of the separation of church and state, to siphon off tax dollars to private religious schools. When the voucher legislation died, what happened to those schools? They had to close or become charter schools to stay open. Which means we were going to take tax dollars to prop up financially unstable private schools. Is that the real point of vouchers? To financially prop up private religious schools in Memphis?
We wrote about AFC here as a warning that outside national interests are looking to remove the voices of public education from lobbying, silencing our voices in the halls of the legislature. Because a lot of this rule-making that includes or excludes is carried on in back rooms out of the public ear. So, if school systems don't have lobbyists listening for us, all laws will only be made by well-moneyed special interest groups and business lobbyists.
Citizens, "The People," use public schools. The people need a voice in those decisions. Because many times good decisions on paper don’t do so well in practice (cough... testing...) but are kept because someone in power has to save political face or make money or get re-elected. Lobbying is the way the "game is played." Those who would like to block education advocates and school districts from listening in on negotiated law and policy changes are only changing the rules to shift all the power and public money away from the public schools and into the pockets of the 1% business elite.
Please remember who these powerful business lobbyists represent. It is not teachers’ associations, but testing companies, textbook and computer software companies like Pearson, charter schools, voucher lobbyists like American Federation for Children, consultants for scripted curriculum businesses, student loan companies, all the entities who aim to profit off of tax dollars going to public schools. Do not be fooled.
It is not news that The American Federation for Children (AFC) is a 501(c)(4) lobbying and advocacy group that was founded by the billionaire family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And DeVos was chairman of the lobbying group for years until she was nominated to be education secretary. So, Momma Bears want to know why this anti-public education lobbying group is so cozy with our incoming governor?
Momma Bears, would you respectfully write our new governor-elect a nice email and encourage him to support our public schools FIRST and foremost? We don't need privatization schemes. We need fully-funded public education that can deliver quality, engaging curriculum, arts, and enrichment, support our teachers in the classroom and pay them professional wages so we can eliminate the teacher shortage and high teacher turnover, provide schools that care and build a world-class public school system that can serve all students. Let Governor-Elect Lee know Momma Bears value strong public schools. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
90% of all school-aged children attend public school in Tennessee. We need a governor to understand that he represents us — not The American Federation for Children (AFC).
Beware of the promise that choice is the answer. AFC’s version of school choice really represents creating several systems that may or may not choose your family (charter, public, private) for access. These systems are fighting over the same pot of public dollars. This type of competition creates winners and losers. Nationally, many times all of those systems, an most of all students, get shortchanged as these school choice systems fight over funding crumbs. How is that choice? And who is this AFC cabinet choice for education?
Momma Bears think all children should win by creating a winning public school system for EVERY child in the State of Tennessee. There should never be losers. The American Federation for Children and Betsy DeVos do not support your neighborhood public school choice.
HIGHER TAXES DUE TO VOUCHERS (Private schools increase tuition every year!).