By a vote of nine to one, members of the Maury County School Board voted to formally oppose school vouchers this week.
According to the school system’s website, David Moore was the only board member to vote no to the resolution. Natasha Hopkins was absent. The rest of the board members all voted yes to the resolution.
To date, Maury is the seventh known school system to formally oppose vouchers.
Before she voted, board member Kristin Parker told The Tennessee Star it’s her job to support public schools.
“I would probably support having vouchers, but I am open to hearing what other people in the community think before I cast my final vote,” Parker said.
Parker later voted against school vouchers, according to the minutes of this week’s school board meeting.
Meanwhile, board member Bettye Kinser, who voted the same way Parker did, said she vehemently opposes vouchers.
“I feel like they will be a real detriment to public schools.
If we need to spend some more money then let’s spend them on the schools and make them better,” Kinser told The Star.
“Are there situations that maybe charter schools would work? Maybe in a large metropolitan area? I can’t say I totally oppose them, but I don’t see the need for them in Maury County.”
Officials in other school systems argue that public schools hold their students to higher academic standards than charter schools.
According to state numbers, 47 percent of Maury County students who went on to college needed remedial math courses, while 32 percent of them needed remedial reading.
As The Star reported this month, school board members in Madison, Houston, Wilson, and Rutherford counties oppose school vouchers. School boards in Metro Nashville and Oak Ridge have done the same.
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee stated in the past he supports vouchers. Lee, however, has used ambiguous language of late on the matter and has issued no firm statement to describe what, precisely, he supports.
As reported, Lee named 36-year-old Penny Schwinn, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, formerly affiliated with Teach for America, as Tennessee’s new Commissioner of Education.
Lee’s announcement of this appointment made no mention of school choice. It was not mentioned either as a priority of his administration, or as an area in which Schwinn has any interest, experience, or focus.
Shortly after he won the primary in August 2018, Lee removed the list of Ten for Ten promises, which included school choice as one of the ten promises, from his campaign website.
However, a few hours after he was sworn into office last month, Lee’s official website posted this statement of priorities in education:
“Empower parents to choose the best educational option for their students.”
How and when this general objective is translated into specific legislation officials can enact into law, however, remains unexplained.
Lee’s failure to set forth a specific voucher agenda has given opponents at the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents and the Tennessee School Boards Association plenty of time to rally support against vouchers.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Kristin Parker” by Maury County Public Schools.