A McMinn County public school principal warned legislators and her teachers that school vouchers are bad and irresponsible parents are the reason public schools are in such bad shape.
This, according to a series of emails Principal Angela Miller of Mountain View School in Etowah sent out last month.
In so doing, Miller may have violated state law.
The Tennessee Star obtained these emails through an open records request.
In her emails, Miller traced public schools’ woes back to one source.
“It is the downfall of parents not being involved in children’s lives. We have a societal issue with rampant drugs, misuse of government subsidies, and incarceration of parents. Parent engagement needs to be addressed rather than taking funds from public schools,” Miller wrote.
“K-12 education plays a powerful role in overcoming terrorism, immigration, economy, and the opioid crisis. Public education is necessary in ensuring an educated people to vote for key political positions.”
Miller did not return The Star’s request for comment Wednesday. Specifically, we wanted her to expand upon what she said about parents and to clarify whether she meant to say it’s a public school’s job to indoctrinate kids into taking certain political positions when they vote.
State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, responded to Miller and said he agreed with what she said about “societal and family deterioration.”
“I’ve spoken to enough teachers to realize they are facing an almost impossible task due to so many children having almost no support at home,” Bell told Miller in his emailed response.
“We’ve got to figure a way to encourage, incentivize, or compel parents to get more involved in their children’s education. My support of the Governor’s ESAs is based partially on the hope it will encourage parents to take a more active role in the education of their children.”
Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s plan for vouchers and Education Savings Accounts does not attack public schools, Bell wrote.
“The Governor’s ESA plan is absolutely not an attack on public education but It is an acknowledgement that we have some failing schools and that’s where most of the resources Lee has asked for will be used. In those districts with failing schools,” Bell said.
In her emails to teachers, Miller gave out the email addresses for four legislators, suggesting she wanted the teachers to lobby against school vouchers.
According to the language of the Tennessee Little Hatch Act, this activity might violate state law.
Specifically, Tennessee’s Hatch Act says the following about this conduct:
• “It is unlawful for any public officer or employee to use such person’s official position, authority or influence to interfere with an election or nomination for office or directly or indirectly attempt to intimidate, coerce or command any other officer or employee to vote for or against any measure, party or person, or knowingly receive or pay assessments of any kind or character for political purposes or for election expenses from any other officer or employee.”
• “It is the intent of this section to prohibit any political intimidation or coercion of any public officer or employee.”
As The Star reported last month, Brian Trammell, another principal in Etowah, recently emailed his teachers and staff and urged them to lobby against the school vouchers’ bill up for consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Angela Miller” by ReadytobeReadyTn. Background Photo “Classroom” by Linda LaBonte Britt.