Testing, Vouchers, and the 2018 TN Governor’s Race

One candidate for Governor of Tennessee is aggressively pushing expansion of publicly-funded vouchers to allow students to attend private schools. Additionally, businessman Bill Lee (R) is arguing local school boards shouldn’t have much of a say in the matter.

From Tennessee Education Report:

So, in Bill Lee, Tennesseans have a candidate for Governor who has expressed unqualified support for a voucher program that has failed in Indiana, Ohio, and Louisiana and that will almost certainly increase state and local costs. Additionally, he wants to be sure local elected officials can’t bring a strong voice of opposition to this proposal.

Yes, taxes would go up to fund a voucher scheme:

Analysis by the County Commissioners Association (a group Lee would seem to want silenced as their positions don’t match his advocacy) shows that local property taxes would almost certainly go up as a result of a comprehensive statewide voucher program.

To be clear, other candidates for Governor are also on record as supporting vouchers, including state Senator Mae Beavers, who has voted in favor of various voucher schemes while in the General Assembly.

While gubernatorial candidates sort out their positions on vouchers and other education issues, Tennessee’s Department of Education is spending a lot of money on a new testing regime (TNReady) that’s not yielding very useful results:

Guess what? Tennessee taxpayers are on the hook for some $60 million to testing vendor Questar for new TNReady tests.

Guess what else? Those tests aren’t exactly helpful.

At least that’s the word from the education professionals in classrooms.

Why isn’t the test helpful?

Why isn’t the testing useful? For one, the results don’t come back in time. Even with the switch to a new testing vendor this year following the debacle of the first year of TNReady, quick score results weren’t back very quickly and final results will be delivered later this year.

It’s worth noting, though, that even before the transition to TNReady, teachers found the testing regime burdensome and unhelpful. It’s almost like the state is surveying teachers but not actually paying attention to the results.

While vouchers will most certainly be a key issue in the 2018 Governor’s race, it will be interesting to see where the candidates come down on the issue of testing.

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TheAndySpears


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