Posts Tagged ‘education reform’

State Senate passes opportunity scholarships bill

NASHVILLE – Today, the Tennessee Federation for Children, Beacon Center of Tennessee and StudentsFirst Tennessee applaud state lawmakers for passing the Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act with a bipartisan vote of 20-10. The Senate’s action brings Tennessee one step closer to empowering parents to make the best education decisions for their children.

The Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act will create an opportunity scholarship program to allow children trapped in failing schools to use educational funds to attend any non-public school of their choice. The program could begin as soon as the 2014-2015 school year and would give up to 5,000 children the opportunity to attend a school of their parents’ choice in the first year.

“Tennessee has strong state leadership when it comes to education reform, and we are grateful to Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell, and state Senators who supported the bill and for their perseverance to make high-quality educational options accessible to more families within the state,” said American Federation for Children board chairman, Betsy DeVos. “We are hopeful the Tennessee House will be equally supportive of providing this important educational option to families in need.”

The bill will be heard in the House Finance, Ways and Means committee before moving on to the Calendar and Rules committee and then to the House floor.

Along with state leaders, the Tennessee Federation for Children, Beacon Center of Tennessee and StudentsFirst Tennessee have worked in partnership to raise awareness across the state about the importance and power of educational choice, which creates hope and opportunity for children in low-income families.

“This is a monumental day for children all across Tennessee,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “Parents have spoken loud and clear that they should not have to rely on a ZIP Code to determine the quality of their child’s education, and the Senate heard their calls and took action to give every parent and child a choice.”

In recent months, more than 6,500 parents, community leaders and education reformers have joined together to lend their voices in support of an opportunity scholarship program through the grassroots organization School Choice NOW. In January, more than 1,200 supporters braved snowy conditions and travelled from all corners of the state to gather at War Memorial Auditorium in a public display of support for educational freedom.

“Parents should be the top decision makers when it comes to their child’s education and future,” said StudentsFirst State Director Brent Easley. “With this legislation many students will have their academic needs met. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and State Senate have all acted in the best interests of kids. We look forward to the House acting on this soon.”

The Tennessee Federation for Children (TFC) is the state affiliate of the American Federation for Children, the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization working 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.

StudentsFirst Tennessee – Since 2010, StudentsFirst Tennessee has worked tirelessly to ensure educators are valued for the critical role they play in kids’ lives, families have high-quality school choices and a real say in their children’s education, and our tax dollars are spent wisely on what works for kids. Now, a bipartisan movement of more than 35,000 members, StudentsFirst Tennessee looks to continue our work with state leaders to advance the common sense policies that have made Tennessee an example of the power of education reform. For more information on our legislative and outreach efforts, please visit http://www.studentsfirst.org/state/tennessee.

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April 10th, 2014 | Recent News

Tennessee moves one step closer to an opportunity scholarship program

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.

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March 26th, 2014 | Recent News

School choice puts focus on each student

Dr. Harold Black, professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee and Beacon senior fellow, pens an op-ed in support of school choice. This article originally appeared in Saturday’s Knoxville News Sentinel.

by Dr. Harold Black

On Jan. 28 a school choice rally was held in Nashville. Caravans from Memphis came to show support. Earlier some of these parents had camped out in sub-zero weather at Shelby Country School District headquarters to register their children in optional schools designed to meet a child’s specialized interest and needs. Speaker Rev. Dwight Montgomery, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Memphis chapter president, asked: “They use public funds to bail corporations out. So what’s wrong with bailing our children out?”

Why not indeed? Little of the dialogue regarding K-12 has been centered on our children. Rather, the focus has been on curriculum, facilities and increased funding. While these are important, they are not more important than an analysis of what is best for parents and their children. It actually may be more cost efficient to let parents avail themselves of opportunity scholarships than to continue increasing funding to failing schools.

A basic axiom of economics is that people receive better, and in many cases cheaper, goods and services when markets are competitive. If a product is inferior and does not meet consumers’ standards, then it is forced out of the market. The continuing existence of a poor quality product generally means that the market is not characterized by competition and that consumers have no choices for substitute goods. As a result, economists note that the net well-being of consumers is reduced.

There is perhaps no better example of that axiom than education in Tennessee. In East Tennessee parents have little choice where they can send their children to school. Private schools are not affordable for most families. As a consequence, parents are in essence forced to consume a product that they might otherwise reject.

It’s time we put children first in the education reform dialogue. The best way to do this — and to ensure that every child has access to a quality education, regardless of his or her means — is to empower parents with school choice. Options like opportunity scholarships will empower parents to choose the best alternatives for their children, whether public, private, charter or homeschool. In so doing, the public school system will face competition that will compel it to improve its performance.

Instead of funding schools and systems, we should be funding children. We already spend designated dollars on each child (in Knox County it’s roughly $8,500 per pupil), so let’s pin a portion of that money to each child’s backpack and let it follow him or her to the school that’s right for them. This approach corrects a major obstacle facing many Tennessee children: a one-size-fits-all approach. Every child is unique, but our education system treats them all the same. Children are zoned for schools based on their ZIP Code. The wishes of the parents and unique needs, skills and interests of their children are irrelevant in this process.

Education is the most important factor of upward social mobility and lowers societal costs by preventing school dropouts. Most parents understand this and desire a better future for their children. The discussion in Nashville centers on the best approach to providing opportunity scholarships to tens of thousands of Tennessee children. Providing leadership on this important issue can ensure that we begin to view education through the proper lens — focusing on what is best for the child.

 Harold Black is a professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee and a senior fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee.

February 16th, 2014 | Commentary

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