Mr. A has reason to worry. The voucher plan touted by Governor Lee's administration will likely hit high achieving schools such as those in Collierville the hardest. Despite promises from lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and House Speaker Glen Casada, also from Williamson County, there will be a devastating impact on successful schools systems including the state's number one district Williamson County and its next door neighbor, Franklin Special School District.
How do we know that?
USA Today recently exposed what are known as "legislative mills" or "bill-making factories." Special interest groups like Betsy DeVos' American Federation for Children hire a team of professionals to write model legislation. Some of the scriveners actually were hired away from their state jobs as bill writers. Once written, the model legislation is then peddled to state lawmakers usually at high end resorts after a night of heavy drinking and carousing. But it can also take place on a fishing trip to Orange Beach, Alabama.
The lawmakers bring the pre-written bills back to their home state and push them through their state legislature. And that is exactly what has happened with the ESA voucher plan. Tennessee is on the verge of adopting a law that is written almost exactly like the laws already enacted in other states. So, we have a glimpse into our future...
In Arizona, the ESA voucher came in like our IEA vouchers for students with special needs. One mom described it as a God-send for her two autistic children. But as the voucher plan expanded to included more and more students, her special needs children were pushed out of the program.
"[S]he realized in retrospect that students with disabilities were used as a Trojan horse to put on the legislative agenda a fringe idea that was part of a much bigger campaign. In the years that followed, 19 other states debated 93 nearly identical proposals based on model legislation. They became law in Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina and Tennessee.
"Every single, little expansion, if you look at who's behind it, it is the people that want to get that door kicked open for private religious education," Edwards said. "All we (families with disabled students) are was the way for them to crack open the door.”
So what happens when the voucher law is expanded?
It begins to encroach into the area of high achieving public school districts. In Arizona, more than 75% of the money pulled out of public schools for their ESA program "came from districts with an "A" or "B" rating." "By contrast, only 4% of the money came from school districts rated "D" or lower." And that makes sense. Impoverished families in low achieving school districts have limited means to pay tuition beyond the ESA voucher amount. They have limited access to transportation. And their children may not fit in with the culture of affluent or religious private schools.
So, why would happy students leave their successful public schools?
Ask a Momma Bear and we will tell you….
Public school parents will not use ESA vouchers to escape their beloved neighborhood schools but they will use them to escape the heavy handed state regulations that push ridiculous common core curriculum and burdensome testing. These things are hurting our children. And special interest groups looking to profit on education are going to market ESA gift cards as a way to escape common core and abusive testing.
Every year, we receive messages from unhappy parents about state testing:
My daughter is a sophomore in XXXXXX County, she has been pulled out of her Yearbook class (study hall) because she scored a 21 on the RTI test last year. She was in Honors English and finished with a 89 grade. I am not sure what the deal is but the teacher is giving her grief about this test and is making her go take more tests with classmates that are failing students. I am a little worried because the teacher will not reach out to me and is rude to my child each day. The teacher told my daughter she would send an email out to the staff and they would discuss if she will be eligible to continue Yearbook for she will be testing; she could only get out if she made 3 solid 100s on the tests in a row. My daughter is a SOLID A/B student. So what part of NOT failing does the teacher NOT understand. Also, from what I understand, this is for English and my daughter is NOT even in an English class this semester!! Can we say all screwed up?? Can you please help me see what I am missing with this situation?
The (sort of) short version of our story is that I am a pediatrician. My husband taught Elementary school for 21 years in TN before being a stay at home dad for the last 2 years. We have 4 children, one of whom has Down syndrome. Our child with Down syndrome has too high of an IQ to opt out of regular testing. We had planned as parents to opt her out because we felt it wasn't a good measure and would just re-emphasize her language disability. The state basically told us it was illegal to opt her out. We could have not signed her IEP, but then we would have had to go through due process and we are really happy with our school system and especially the services she is getting at school so we didn't want to go that route. Plus, it would only benefit her and not the thousands of other kids taking this test! We have met with State Senator Jon Lundberg. He basically said he would advocate to get scores uncoupled from grades and teacher evaluations and he was shocked at the number of hours that they will be testing with TNReady. XXXXXX will be testing for 7.7 hours and our middle schooler for 9 hours. My pediatric board exam is 9 hours (that is after 3 years of 50-60 hours a week training! Needless to say we are pretty unhappy with the state. Our next meeting will hopefully be with the president of the state school board. But we wanted to reach out to you, first to share our story and also to get your thoughts and any other people you feel like we should meet with. Thanks!
I am in Sumner County. We moved here for the schools. I thought, we had the best year last year at the new elementary school XXXXXXX in Hendersonville, TN. I found this website while googling various things about standardized based grading. My son is in 2nd grade and this was forced on us without any prior notice. We found out at Meet the Teacher night well into the school year. Are you working on a post about how the SBG is aligned to Common Core (re-branded as Tennessee Standards although they deny this at the SCBOE) We have met for over an hour with his Teacher, then the Principal and finally yesterday with the 2 Instruction Coordinators at the BOE. I feel like yesterday all i did was hand them every logical and valid reason why any person would oppose standardized based grading and the educational atmosphere, so that they can refute them with their canned answers.
But upset parents aren't the only ones who email us. We also receive emails from whistle-blower teachers who give us the inside story about state requirements. Two years ago, one whistle-blower told us about how the new Tennessee Social Studies standards came into being. Now, things are beginning to make sense. Suddenly, it is clear why Governor Lee'e education plan excludes private schools accepting ESA gift cards from teaching or testing on Tennessee Social Studies standards.
Read what an anonymous teacher told us in 2017:
"I really appreciate your hard work and efforts at protecting students and schools from all of the political assaults that are going on in our state currently. I know that you typically focus on assessment, but I wondered if you are aware of what is currently going on with Tennessee Social Studies Standards?
A committee of history teachers selected by the state board met this summer, and made fantastic revisions to the standards. The revisions went through a rigorous round of public feedback, and they are now in the hands of a Standards Review Committee that was appointed by Governor Haslam, the out-going Lieutenant Governor Ramsey, and Secretary of State Hargett.
This committee has a member with a glaring conflict of interest. Bill Carey owns TNhistoryforkids.org, and he makes his living by selling booklets that he writes about Tennessee History to school systems and teachers. The booklets are of poor quality, and they generally sell from $2-$5 a piece. He is serving on the SRC, having been appointed by Ron Ramsey, who is on the TNHistoryforkids.org board of directors. At today's SRC committee meeting, the high school standards were up for revision.
High School U.S. History was intensely revised this summer because there are currently 112 standards and over 600 individual strands of content. This means that teachers literally only have five minutes per strand of content to teach if they never had any interruptions in instruction. Many of these strands of content are TN History trivia items, such as a labor strike in Coal Creek in the late 1800s, and a socialist commune in Monteagle in the 1950s that MLK and Rosa Parks briefly visited before they rose to prominence.
Bill Carey successfully used his political influence, his position as a writer for Tennessee magazine, and a letter from the new Lieutenant Governor McNally to reinsert all these items. He will gain financially from this, and teachers will lose valuable class-time teaching the material because it will be assessed on state assessments. In addition, almost the only place you can find information on Coal Creek in particular, but several of the other trivia items is by purchasing books from Bill Carey. School systems and teachers will waste hundreds of thousands of dollars. Like I said, I know this isn't really what this blog is designed for, but I thought you might want to look into it. The taxpayers, the social studies teachers in 3-12, and especially the students are losing because of one man's financial gain and corruption."