Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Vouchers, A Tight Budget And Accountability


Not many people are talking about how a voucher system will effect rural schools in Tennessee. There are not very many private schools outside of urban areas, and so when tonight we will hear Gov. Bill Haslam talk about his voucher initiative. Where is that money going to go in every county?

This is a question rural legislators should be paying particular attention to, what is the needs of their district when it comes to education.

In an article from 2011, Pennsylvania addressed the same questions that Tennessee is facing today.

First, as the governor and nearly every local lawmaker says, the state is in financial trouble. The governor’s proposed budget slashes funding for many worthwhile programs, and offers up huge cuts for public education at all levels. We can’t afford to keep spending like we have been, Corbett and others have argued. If that’s the case, how can we now afford to create a new program that conservative estimates say will cost several hundred million dollars a year? If that kind of money is laying around, why can’t we restore some funding for public schools and universities? The simple answer is that the money isn’t there, and lawmakers would have to find other programs to pull the money from.
Our second problem is the lack of accountability and the fact that our tax dollars would be handed over to private, many for-profit, schools that don’t have to answer to anyone. They can hire whomever they want, teach whatever they want, and in the end, student achievement is beyond the purvey of the Department of Education.
Public schools are accountable to the state Department of Education, and to the local school boards. Private schools are…well…private. They have voluntary accreditations, but in the end, they are accountable only to the people who put up the money to own them.

By last fall, GOP Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett had a huge mess on his hands in Philadelphia.

Want to see a public school system in its death throes? Look no further than Philadelphia. There, the school district is facing end times, with teachers, parents and students staring into the abyss created by a state intent on destroying public education.

On Thursday the city of Philadelphia announced that it would be borrowing $50 million to give the district, just so it can open schools as planned on Sept. 9, after Superintendent William Hite threatened to keep the doors closed without a cash infusion. The schools may open without counselors, administrative staff, noon aids, nurses, librarians or even pens and paper, but hey, kids will have a place to go and sit.

The $50 million fix is just the latest band-aid for a district that is beginning to resemble a rotting bike tube, covered in old patches applied to keep it functioning just a little while longer. At some point, the entire system fails.

Things have gotten so bad that at least one school has asked parents to chip in $613 per student just so they can open with adequate services, which, if it becomes the norm, effectively defeats the purpose of equitable public education, and is entirely unreasonable to expect from the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

The voucher debate has been relegated to urban areas leaving rural realities basically invisible. The bottom line is if vouchers are introduced, small struggling school districts will financially get hammered. The loss of even a baker’s dozen handful of students could cost that school millions they can’t afford to lose.

So it is fair to ask, what is the plan for every school in the state and not just the ones that will be mentioned in the news cycle?

The Tennessean has a story today on how school voucher PACs have already spent close to a quarter of a million dollars in Tennessee ahead of this year’s election.

And on a final note, Tennessee Education Report has interviewed Speaker Beth Harwell who addressed vouchers.

2) If a voucher program is implemented, would you consider independent funding of the voucher students, i.e. funding their tuition through new state funding rather than by redirecting BEP and local funds that would have gone to the LEA?  If the voucher program is limited, as Governor Haslam would like, this could be a relatively inexpensive way to test whether vouchers can raise student achievement without penalizing LEAs for the experiment.

I want everyone’s voice to be heard throughout the process, and welcome all ideas. However, we are already anticipating a tight budget due to revenue shortfalls, so a new funding source may not be possible at this at this time.

Once again, what is the plan?

As Brandon discussed last week, there needs to be a conversation on the facts of education reform. We don’t want to be another Pennsylvania.

Morning Coffee – Throw the Bums Out Edition

Arlen Specter via his Senate Website

Yesterday morning I wrote about the elections that happened yesterday.. This morning it’s clear: right now American voters just don’t like incumbents or establishment candidates, period. Especially on the GOP side.

For proof we’ll go back to the same two neighboring states we did yesterday, Kentucky and Arkansas, and this time add in Pennsylvania for some flavor.

FIrst Kentucky, where the Republican establishment may want an extra dose of that state’s abbreviation to make what happened to them not hurt so much.

Trey Grayson, the State’s Secretary of State and GOP standard-bearer got his butt handed to him by Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, 58% to 35%. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell stuck by Grayson until the very end, then made sure to get behind Paul for the general election. That’s leadership for ya!

Over in Pennsylvania, 5 term former Republican turned Democratic Senator Arlen Specter lost pretty badly to Representative Joe Sestak in the Democratic Primary. This is, perhaps less surprising than the Paul win in Kentucky due to the party switchery that Specter openly admitted he did to “remain in office” in the face of a tough primary battle from his right. Still, Specter had 30+ years of name recognition in the state, something that’s hard to beat no matter how you slice it.

Finally, our neighbor to the west, Arkansas had probably the dirtiest campaign ever run in the state, so dirty in fact that political curmudgeon John Brummett actually called one candidate’s campaign “cynically dishonest”.


Looks like Arkansans get another month of cynical dishonesty as the race between Senator Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Halter goes to a runoff set for June 8th.

In looking at the county by county results there’s something interesting to me. Halter, the challenger, lost almost all of the largest counties by several points, but did well in rural counties. Max Brantley thinks there were some GOP shenanigans in the open primary. I guess we’ll see in a month.

Last month I called this election cycle a “come to Jesus” moment for Tennessee Democrats. I think it’s become that for a lot wider audience, but we’ll see over the coming months. In any case, the first big primary contests have happened in the nation, guess what, the neither the incumbents, nor the establishment candidates won. Challengers take note.

On to the coffee!

There were primary elections in Davidson County too. The City paper has the vote totals.

Note to politicians. Don’t lie about serving in the military, or where you served in the military. What a maroon!

This is funny! I wonder if she also secretly plays the lottery, or recognizes people in liquor stores.

Really? We’re one of the largest importers of coal? #DANG!

Alrighty, have a good day out there

Election Day – Primaries Galore

As Trace mentioned in Morning Coffee, t’s election day today for folks in Davidson County and several states across the country.

The Davidson County Primary Elections, originally scheduled for May 4th, were rescheduled due to the floods that left much of the city underwater. You can see who’s on the ballot here.

Also, if you’re not so sure about who all those clerks are and what they do, check out yesterday’s Liberadio Cirlce of Clerks Podcast.

The Polls are open from 7 am to 7pm. You can find your polling location here.

Two neighboring states are also having primaries today, Arkansas and Kentucky, and even though Tennesseans don’t have a say in the vote, what happens in these elections could impact people here in the Volunteer state.

Over in Arkansas the big primary is between two term Senator Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Governor Bill Halter.

Lincoln is the current Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and has been a frequent speaker at events I’ve worked around the nation by agricultural lobbying groups.

Halter brought the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery to a referendum a few years ago. The system is similar to what we have here in Tennessee. Arkansas has been trying to do something like this for years, but State Supreme Court rulings have typically removed these referenda items from the ballot.

This race has been getting national play for some time. Halter’s announcement earlier this year brought an immediate pledge of two million dollars from labor and progressive groups in his effort to unseat Lincoln.

This has been a bruising campaign that has seen more business for the Arkansas print industry and the USPS than perhaps any other single race in the history of the state. This weekend while I visited my mother in Little Rock, she received at least 10 political advertisements in the mail about the Arkansas Senate race, none of which were from the candidates themselves.

Check out Max Brantley at the Arkansas Blog for some detailed coverage of the race. Chances are, there will be a statewide runoff, if that happens it’s only going to get uglier.

Up in Kentucky the primary battle has been on the GOP side. Current Secretary of State Trey Grayson the closest thing to a GOP standard-bearer is battling with Tea Party candidate Rand Paul, son of former Presidential candidate .

I haven’t been keeping up with this one too closely, but it is entertaining to see the internal battle for the soul of the GOP unfold right before my very eyes. Page One Kentucky among others, has been on the case.

Of course, there are other primary contests going on in other far away places, but I won’t get into all that. If there’s a primary in your area (I’m talking to you Davidson County) get out and vote!