Time is Running Out for Our Children
BY JUSTIN OWEN
Opportunity scholarships—or vouchers—allow parents to use a portion of the funds we already spend on their children’s education to send them a private school of their choice. For three years running, lawmakers have debated whether to provide this opportunity to low-income families across our state who are not being adequately served by their zoned public school. Despite passing the Senate for the past two years, the measure has come just shy of passage in a key House committee each time.
When it comes to ensuring that every Tennessee child gets a quality education, we are running out of time. Every year that legislators fail to adopt opportunity scholarships, thousands of children who would benefit from the program fall further behind. That’s another year trapped in schools that aren’t meeting their needs, making it less likely that they will ever succeed.
There is no excuse to continue denying our children this much-needed lifeline. School choice has proven to boost the performance of children who obtain an opportunity scholarship, as well as those who remain in public schools. It also saves taxpayer money. It’s a win-win-win solution.
Yet, many legislators continue to side with government education unions who want to protect adults over children, and fund systems instead of students. Thousands of Tennesseans have joined the call for more school choice. More than two-thirds of senators have voted to extend this option to families, and 35 House members have signed on as co-sponsors of the Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act. And in 2015, the General Assembly passed a similar program for children with special needs, Tennessee’s first-ever private school choice program. Fortunately for Tennessee families, the tide is turning away from the failed policies of the past.
In the coming weeks, legislators will cast important votes on whether to allow parents—rather than ZIP codes—to dictate the quality of their child’s education. Tennesseans are watching. Will they rise to the occasion?