In Tennessee, city, county, and state legislators and community members have been working tirelessly to pass Educational Savings Accounts (or ESAs), following suit with Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program and others like it across the U.S.
In short, ESAs are accounts that give parents control over tax dollars. This gives families more power and choice in the kind of education their child receives. Each family receives government funds that can be used only on school expenses for their child, and these funds follow the child wherever he or she goes. If a parent finds that a school is unsatisfactory, they have the option to withdraw their child from public school and transfer them to a charter or private school. The ESA funds follow the student to that new school.
According to the Beacon Center of Tennessee, most studies on ESAs suggest that students who use this option fare better academically. This is due to giving parents power to choose an educational experience that best fits their child’s needs.
Some Tennessee residents worry that this program would only make public schools worse. But research suggests that this will help schools by reducing class sizes in public schools, which can help students achieve more academically there, too.
Passing the ESA would result in an economic impact of nearly $3 billion and thousands more graduates in the next two decades, and there are only more benefits yet to be revealed.
However, certain legislators have decided to pass ESAs in Tennessee so long as Hamilton County — where I reside — is excluded.
This hit hard. Hamilton County has schools that rank significantly worse than many schools in our state, including Davidson and Shelby counties. Having worked in education, I am aware that there are kids graduating high school without knowing how to write a complete sentence or think critically. Yet we have local and state politicians whose votes suggest the system that has failed our children for two whole generations is perfectly fine as is in Hamilton County.
As a former school administrator, I believe passing the ESA for all of Tennessee is our one opportunity to rectify the issues with our education system, to reward schools that are doing well while holding poor-performing schools accountable to put kids first.
But this is a two-pronged issue with an unlikely foe preventing ESAs from reaching families who need it most.
Democrats and progressives are busy wanting to keep the state of our education system the same, as their arguments conflate ESAs with vouchers. The difference? Vouchers are government funds that allow parents to fund tuition at a private school. ESAs are funds set aside for parents to use on educational expenses that may include tutoring, transportation, homeschooling, and also transferring to a private, religious, or charter school.
The latter is much more beneficial when put in the proper context. But a handful of local Republican senators (two of whom I know very well) disagree, leaving Hamilton County families to fight for their right to free their children from failing schools.
Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe it. Vexed seems to fit how I feel about this decision. My question to these legislators is “why?” Why do they believe that a good education is reserved only for some? Why keep kids in these failure mills only to produce more gang members and prison inmates? The ESA is a simple and viable solution to myriad problems within our society — across the nation and right here in my home county in Tennessee.
So to this handful of Republicans voting “nay” on this, you owe us an explanation as to why you’d keep this vicious cycle going. Be sure to speak up so millions of trapped families with struggling students can hear you loud and clear. ~The Patriot Post