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NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Federation for Children (TFC), the state affiliate of the American Federation for Children, today applauds the passage of SB 196 the “Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act,” from the Senate Education Committee. The Beacon Center of Tennessee joins with TFC, thanking the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, and legislative leaders from both chambers for moving Tennessee one step closer to empowering parents with additional educational options for their children.
“Tennessee’s future success will be measured by the quality of the education that is provided to its students,” stated Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “We applaud the bipartisan members of the Senate Education Committee for voting in favor of this bill and helping to break down barriers to educational choice for Tennessee parents and students. I also want to recognize and thank Gov. Bill Haslam for his leadership and commitment to enacting transformational education reform.”
The Senate bill passed out of committee with bipartisan support on an eight to one vote. The legislation will now move to the Senate Finance Committee.
The legislation proposes an opportunity scholarship program that will allow students trapped in failing schools to receive educational funds to attend any non-public school of their choice. Educational choice empowers parents to give their children who are trapped in underperforming schools new hope and new quality educational options.
In recent years, other states around the country and surrounding Tennessee have adopted educational choice programs. Currently, 39 school choice programs exist in 18 states, Washington D.C., and Douglas County, Colorado.
Education across the nation is being revolutionized by educational freedom – giving parents more ability to send their children to a school of their choice.
“Tennessee families should be proud that their elected representatives—from the governor to legislators—are standing up in support of their educational freedom,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “We look forward to continuing this important dialogue and helping to offer meaningful educational options for families across our state.”
The Tennessee Federation for Children (TFC) is the state affiliate of the American Federation For Children, the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization and works in states across the country to help secure additional, high-quality educational options for families. TFC has been formed to educate parents and families about the importance of educational choice and advocate for passage of a high-quality, statewide educational choice bill.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee is the state’s leading free market public policy organization. The Center’s mission is to change lives by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.
###March 26th, 2014 | Recent News
The op-ed below by Justin Owen, Benjamin Clark, and Alexandria Gilbert outlines the findings of Beacon’s new education spending study. This article originally appeared in Wednesday’s Tennessean. A similar article appeared in Sundays’ Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription required).
by Justin Owen, Benjamin Clark, and Alexandria Gilbert
These days, virtually every discussion about public education in Tennessee fixates on issues of funding. Tennesseans are continuously told that their schools are among the worst funded in the country and that all that is necessary to fix failing schools is to pour more money into them.
In a new Beacon Center of Tennessee report, we decided to look more deeply into this issue. First, we analyzed how much taxpayers actually spend on education in Tennessee. Second, we tracked where that money goes, and finally we sought to determine whether there is any correlation between spending and student achievement.
Surprisingly, our study found that not only do we already spend a significant amount on public education, the total cost of education is underreported by about 11 percent statewide. Metro Nashville takes the underreporting prize, spending a full 27 percent more than reported. More accurate figures show the district spends more than $14,000 per child, per year.
And where that money goes is troubling. Of the total amount spent statewide, barely half goes toward instructional expenditures such as teacher salaries, textbooks, supplies, etc. In Metro Nashville, an appalling 44 cents of every dollar goes directly to the classroom. This is significantly less than the minimum standard of 60 percent that should be allocated to instructional spending, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Where does the rest of that money go? Administrative expenses eat up a growing chunk of education dollars. Between 2000 and 2012, administrative expenses per pupil rose from $450 to $793. Even worse, Metro Nashville officials have nearly doubled the amount they spend on administrative expenditures per pupil.
Much of this represents a substantial rise in the number of administrative personnel. Since 2000, the number of administrators statewide has grown by nearly 35 percent. During the same time period, teacher personnel has increased by less than 17 percent, while the change in the number of students was a mere 7 percent. Not only has the number of administrators risen more dramatically than teachers and students, their salaries have outpaced teacher salaries as well.
Unfortunately, this focus on administrative growth has failed to lead to results. By conducting in-state and state-versus-state comparisons, we could find no measurable correlation between spending and student performance, primarily failing to find a link between this newfound administrative spending and academic growth.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, many school districts spent less yet outperformed their similarly situated counterparts. This lack of correlation between spending and outcomes should spark a deeper debate about real reforms.
There is much opportunity for reforms such as empowering parents through school choice, paying teachers better and rewarding them based on merit, encouraging business and community leaders to enter the teaching profession.
Simply throwing more money at the problem is not the answer. Instead of spending more on public education, school districts should spend education funds more wisely. Only then can we expect to provide our students with the quality education they deserve.
Justin Owen is president and CEO of the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Benjamin Clark and Alexandria Gilbert are research associates at the Beacon Center and co-authors of “Following the Money: A Tennessee Education Spending Primer.”September 4th, 2013 | Commentary
The Washington Free Beacon, a national online publication, covers recent advancements of school choice efforts in both Alabama and Tennessee. The publication gets Beacon CEO Justin Owen’s reaction to Tennessee’s activity.
“As we talk with parents, lawmakers, and other Tennesseans, we consistently hear that they want to see this proposal expanded to include more low- and middle-income families,” said Justin Owen, president of the Beacon Center of Tennessee.
“We support school choice opportunities that empower all parents, regardless of their means or where they live, to choose the school that is right for their children,” Owen said.
Read the entire article here.March 1st, 2013 | Recent News