Jackson-Madison County School Board Members Oppose School Vouchers: ‘Is It Fair for Teachers . . . to Lose Their Jobs?’

Yet another school district in Tennessee has formally opposed school vouchers.

Members of the Jackson-Madison County Board of Education, the governing authority for the public schools in the West Tennessee city of Jackson and the parts of Madison County beyond the city limits, voted unanimously on January 28 to oppose vouchers.

The vote came after statements of opposition to vouchers were made by school boards and county commissions in other parts of the state, all part of what appears to be an orchestrated and coordinated effort by the Tennessee School Board Association.

School Board member Janice Hampton told The Tennessee Star Tuesday that the vote among board members for a resolution opposing school vouchers was unanimous, something Jacksonsun.com also stated in its reporting on the January 28 meeting.

Superintendent Eric Jones was perhaps the most outspoken against vouchers, according to Jacksonsun.com

The website went on to say board members adopted a “recommended resolution from the Tennessee School Boards Association.”

A Matter of Standards

Two of the school board members — including Hampton — told The Star Tuesday that charter schools don’t measure up to the same academic standards as public schools. Public schools, she said, are better suited to meet all students’ needs. The two board members also said some charter schools have closed, and many charter school students return to public schools.

As it pertains to vouchers, The Star asked Hampton if she and her colleagues care more about what’s best for the students or what’s best for the public school teachers and administrators and the public schools’ financing.

“As vouchers are given to students as a whole, yes, if students of public education will go to charter schools or private schools you have many teachers losing their jobs,” Hampton said.

“Many administrators will lose their jobs because there will not be enough students in the school district to be taught. Is it fair for teachers who have gone so far to get educated and then to get certified to teach courses to lose their jobs because of vouchers? I don’t think it’s right,” she added.

School Board Member Shannon Stewart, meanwhile, told The Star that only one of her constituents has approached her to voice support for school vouchers. The majority of her constituents, she said, opposed them.

“Maybe because the majority of the people I surround myself with are very much pro-public schools, the same way in a presidential election if you’re a conservative then all of your friends will have the same views as you and if you’re a liberal all your friends will have the same views as you in regards to that,” Stewart said.

Justin Owen, president of the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free market think tank, said he and his organization support school vouchers.

“The beauty of charter schools is that if they fail to provide a quality education, they get shut down. When is the last time you heard of a traditional public school shutting down for poor performance?” Owen asked.

“The reality is that charter schools overwhelmingly provide a quality education to students, as evidenced by the fact that more and more parents are choosing charters over their zoned public school, and by the data showing that the top tier schools across the state are charter schools.

Owen also said “it’s true that private schools in our state do not have the same academic standards as our public schools.”

“They have higher academic standards,” Owen said in an emailed statement.

“Further, since parents can choose whether to send their children to that school or not, they also are held accountable to parents to ensure that they provide a quality education.”

Last Friday board members met with State Sen. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, and state representatives Chris Todd, R-Humboldt, and Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar to discuss pending bills about education in this year’s Tennessee General Assembly. None of those men serve on education committees, according to the website.

During that meeting, Shaw signaled his opposition to vouchers, according to Monday’s Jacksonsun.com

“I would simply say this: I think it’s immoral to come down here and rob this system of the students and money and take it somewhere else,” the website quoted Shaw as saying.

Hampton said that under vouchers money goes away from public schools and will “create havoc and hardship in our school system,” the website said.

Jackson, meanwhile said “he wouldn’t vote for vouchers the way the board describes them to him.”

An Ambiguous Agenda

Someone livestreamed last week’s board meeting of the on Facebook.

According to the livestream, school vouchers dominated most of the conversation. Board members are reportedly concerned because Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee stated in the past that he supports them. Lee, however, has used ambiguous language of late on the matter and has issued no firm statement to describe what, precisely, he supports.

Shaw, according to Jacksonsun.com, said if Lee wants vouchers, he should appropriate additional funds for them.

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 them.

Opposition Among School Administrators Growing

As The Tennessee Star has reported, school boards in Houston and Wilson counties, as well as Oak Ridge, stated this year they formally oppose school vouchers.

Wilson County Commissioner Robert Fields told The Tennessee Star last week that he and his colleagues voiced their formal opposition because the county’s Board of Education requested it.

But he did say some commissioners didn’t see much point in voting for the resolution because no one has presented a pro-vouchers bill in the state legislature.

Also as The Star reported, members of the Oak Ridge Board of Education say they are drafting a formal resolution opposing school vouchers, and they plan to forward it to state legislators.

According to the most recent draft of the Oak Ridge resolution, board members complain that, under school choice, private schools have standards to enroll or remove any students they wish.

Board members also complain “voucher programs divert critical dollars and commitment from public schools to pay private school tuition for a few students, including many who already attend private schools.”

Houston County commissioners, as The Star reported, formally opposed vouchers at the behest of Houston County Director of Schools Kris McAskill. McAskill warned vouchers would take money away from the public-school system.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]








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10 Thoughts to “Jackson-Madison County School Board Members Oppose School Vouchers: ‘Is It Fair for Teachers . . . to Lose Their Jobs?’”

  1. […] Since Bill Lee was elected governor in November 2018, school boards in Maury, Rutherford, Madison, Houston, and Wilson counties have formally opposed school vouchers. School officials in Nashville […]

  2. […] County School Board member Janice Hampton told The Star last week that charter schools don’t measure up to the same academic standards as public schools. […]

  3. […] As The Star reported this week, school boards in Madison and Houston counties have passed similar resolutions, as did the Oak Ridge School Board. Wilson County commissioners also passed a resolution, which they will forward to state legislators. […]

  4. Thomas

    I hate to see anyone lose their job, after all it’s what puts the food on the table and a roof over the head, “BUT”.
    Jimmy Carter creation of the “Department of Education” is the source of todays problems, too much government control, too much immoral education, too much false political doctrines, not enough Discipline, and certainly not enough education about our country’s History and Constitution.
    My Grand-Daughter’s text records showed she was texting on the average of every ten minutes during school hours.
    The public Schools are failing on every level.
    This is not about a few teachers losing a job, that happens to everyone in the course of a lifetime, we all survived.
    This is about thousands on thousands of Kids getting a good education year after year, not only for academic purposes but also to make better informed decisions throughout their life.

    Public schools don’t have the strict discipline necessary for students to stay focused on the subject being taught, and it’s why they don’t learn.

    I support Vouchers, Competition for Customers/Students always improves a “Product”.

  5. Horatio Bunce

    “The two board members also said some charter schools have closed, and many charter school students return to public schools.”

    This is partly because the charters up to this point are only allowed to start in the worst-of-the-worst academic districts – that also have a minimum number of schools in them so they don’t lose too much business. The “new” charter doesn’t get to “pick and choose” their customers like the public system says. They only get the academic failures the public system is willing to let loose. And they also have to be “economically disadvantaged” kids, and preferably non-white. Then there is a cap on the number of those kids that are allowed to escape – and lotteries to figure out who gets to escape. Then once the academic failures have been allowed to leave, NEA water-carriers like Andy Berke call for them to be shut down within the year because the students are academically behind. No kidding – how far behind were they when they left the public system? You have the data. What about shutting down the public schools where the kids are behind?

    The fact is, nobody forces these parents to look for an alternative to the public school and choose charters. They aren’t satisfied with something in the status quo. If the public system is really as good as they say and none of their constituents want it like they claim, they have nothing to worry about….right?

    I also don’t understand why these educators cannot understand this is not a zero-sum game. Do they expect the new teachers needed for the charter schools to appear out of thin air? Same number of kids….they all need teachers….just not in the same building.

    I don’t think it is fair that taxpayers are forced to fund these public schools that accept illegal aliens. $10k per student per year, plus all those ESL teachers we wouldn’t need otherwise. They are the largest sanctuary business in TN.

  6. Tomas Rose

    Supporters of vouchers are hiding the fact that school vouchers will be available to illegal aliens. Basically, you are asking Tennessee taxpayers to give funds to illegal aliens to attend private schools.

    1. 83ragtop50

      I understand your thought but what difference does it make if we are paying for illegals to attend private schools instead of public schools which is now the case?. The real answer is to force illegals to pay for any and all education out of their own pocket. Providing illegals with any type of public benefit – including medical and educational – is a blight on America.

  7. Bruce

    If we had better teachers and better public school boards, we wouldn’t need vouchers.

  8. John Bumpus

    Not so long ago the mantra of the Dems was, “it’s for the children.” But now, apparently, it’s not about the children at all–but rather, that mantra was just ANOTHER Dem LIE–it’s about someone else, and always has been, and to heck with the kids–and in many school districts the stats there prove it.

    Question: Why can a good teacher not get a teaching position in private school as well as in a public school? Answer: there is no reason why a good teacher should not be able to get a teaching position anywhere?

    Tennessee teacher’s union–the public is now ‘on’ to your phony baloney hooey. Go peddle your greedy nonsense somewhere else!

  9. Kevin

    The TSBA and School Boards in general use fear-based intimidation to keep teachers in-line!

    Teachers will have jobs, as long as there are kids! It might be in public schools, charter schools, private schools or in working for “home school” organizations. Public School Administrators, not so much! Take a look at ANY County public school budget in Tennessee, and this is what you will find.

    School enrollment, year over year is up a percent or two. Teacher salaries, year over year, are up 2 to 3%. Then look at the overall increase in the school spending. It’s 5, 6 7 or more percent year over year. WHY? Because they are creating a bureaucratic state which strong arms parents with the phrase “it’s for the children”, to grow their numbers and voting-block power. Call it what you want, it’s Communism 101!