Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The charter school push in TN

I came across this article on school reform in TN via LeftWingCracker on Twitter. Here's what's going on in TN:

StudentsFirst political contributions to candidates for the Tennessee state Legislature and local school boards totaled $470,000 at last report -- with a final report on November and December spending due to be filed with the state Registry of Election Finance later this month. That surpassed the total of the state's teachers union, Tennessee Education Association, which had political contributions totaling about $327,000 during the same period.

Most of the StudentsFirst money distributed in Tennessee went to Republicans. StudentsFirst gave $40,000 to the House and Senate Republican caucuses, for example, versus $10,000 to their Democratic equivalents.

What's the legislative goal of the StudentsFirst group and why do they tend to give to Republicans?:
The top priority for StudentsFirst in the 2013 session, Rhee said, is a "statewide authorizer" for charter schools, meaning a state body could approve establishment of a charter school even if it is opposed by a local school board. The group also is pushing a voucher system for low-income students, Rhee said, and a stronger "parent trigger" law, which would allow parents in a low-performing school to initiate a move to create a charter school.

Here's more:

Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, doesn't like Rhee's potential influence on Tennessee education.

On Friday, she called it "really selfish for people like Ms. Rhee to come to Tennessee and her ex-husband is the commissioner of education. That just doesn't sit well with me. I think there might be a conflict there. ... She's out trying to get vouchers."
...
In 2011, the Republican-dominated Legislature stripped the union of its collective bargaining powers. Though Haslam hadn't come out in favor of the bill, he signed it. Huffman became commissioner more than midway through the 2011 session.

People like Rhee and Republicans say in public that this is about the kids, that they just want what is best for them. But I tend to think that's bullshit. First of all, look at how Republicans behave in every other facet of governing. They don't give a shit about poor people or children. If they did they wouldn't balk at expanding Medicaid on the dollar of the generous federal gov't via the Affordable Care Act. I'm less sure someone like Rhee's heart isn't in the right place. I'll assume it is. But I'm not sure what leads her to say vouchers for charter schools is the way to go.

Republicans obviously want to destroy another union, teacher's unions being one of the last remaining unions with some power. They also don't like that public schools teach things like science and don't teach kids christianity. They want to be able to send kids to a school that will only teach them the things they want them to know. They also think that privatization is the cure all to everything. They hate the gov't when it's not directly benefitting them so they jump at the chance to get gov't out of something and put money into the pockets of wealthy white people who will donate to their campaigns.

Even if you assume that Republicans and Rhee are all about the kids and really want to reform schools for the better, why is vouchers for charter schools the answer? This policy only gives vouchers to certain kids that allows them to not go to the "bad" school they attend and go to the "good" school that will be better for them (the supposedly good schools being christian private schools, which should run into first amendment issues if it weren't for a ridiculous supreme court).

First of all, where's the evidence that this works? Second of all, if it did work, why should only certain kids have the ability to go to better schools? If your goal is to improve education and thus kids' lives across the board, shouldn't you look to improve every school, not just move a few kids from bad schools to good schools? That's what the evil, non-kids first teacher's union wants. What's StudentsFirst and Republicans' plan for all the kids that don't get vouchers? What is being done to improve their lives? I don't know. And I don't trust Republicans, especially ones in Tennessee, to provide the answer.

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