Last year when the issue of school choice came up in Tennessee the Chambers of Commerce in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville Chambers of Commerce in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville came out strongly against parental empowerment.
This is difficult to understand coming from an organization that should understand the power of competition to bring about lower costs and improved products and services. A recent study demonstrated “The District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) produced $2.62 in benefits for every dollar spent on it. In other words, the return on public investment for the private-school voucher program during its early years was 162 percent.” A previous study in Florida showed “The corporate income tax credit scholarship program produces a net savings to the state. They estimate that in Fiscal Year 2007-08, taxpayers saved $1.49 in state education funding for every dollar loss in corporate income tax revenue due to credits for scholarship contributions.” A small sampling of the abundance of real world data demonstrating improved scores, graduation rates, parent and student satisfaction, etc. in choice programs are available throughout our website.
These same chambers are quick to emphasize the importance of quality schools to attract new businesses and jobs to a county, yet stood against a policy designed to do just that on an entire state level. Just imagine Tennessee’s power to attract businesses from other states if Tennessee were the first state to create a truly dynamic, competitive, free, parent controlled and empowered education system. There is any number of ways to do this; we favor the ESA. Tennessee would see vastly expanded choices in schools catering to a variety of educational needs and interests; schools specializing in exceptional students, programs for students with specialized learning needs, college preparatory schools, schools with a focus in an variety of interests (theater, arts, music, STEM, leadership, environmental studies, single sex, military…), schools specializing in a trade path rather than a college path with apprenticeship programs, etc. There is no limit to the areas of special needs and interests that could be served in a parent empowered education system. We could put an end to most of the conflict that comes from a one size fits all system and the myriad of related patches and fixes that too often just create new problems. We could create a truly integrated education system out of shared interests.
We call on all of Tennessee’s Chamber of Commences to become informed about the success, data, and very real need for educational freedom in Tennessee; to move beyond myths and lies, and not just support, but demand parental educational empowerment initiatives from the leaders in Tennessee.