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Board of Education opposes proposed state legislation

During their Nov. 3 meeting, members of the Washington County Board of Education unanimously adopted three resolutions opposing state legislation related to the academic calendar, appointed superintendents, and the creation of a voucher program.
Director of Schools Ron Dykes said the resolutions were prepared by the Tennessee School Board Association, and votes were taken across the state during the fall district meeting. The TSBA has asked all school systems to officially adopt the three resolutions.
According to the first resolution, there is a movement in the Tennessee General Assembly to postpone the start date for schools until the fourth Monday in August.
Proponents point to the cost of utilities and the potential influx of revenue through tourism as reasons for the legislation.
Tennessee is one of 36 states that allows local school boards to set school calendars based on the needs of its parents, teachers, students and communities. The TSBA believes the proposed mandatory start date would hinder a school system’s ability to ensure a sufficient number of days of instruction for students prior to state mandated examinations.
A later start date also would require local school boards to reduce or eliminate breaks throughout the year, including fall break, spring break and Christmas break. The end dates for schools would also be postponed, resulting in fewer days for summer vacation between academic years.
Board member Mary Lo Silvers made a motion to adopt the resolution that opposes any legislation to alter or impair a local board’s ability to establish its academic calendar. Vice Chair Chad Williams seconded the motion.
The second resolution favors the current process of superintendents being appointed rather than elected.
The appointment of school superintendents was the cornerstone of the Education Improvement Act of 1992, patterning school governance after the business model, with elected school boards responsible for setting policy and board-appointed chief executive officers in charge of day-to-day administration of schools.
According to the TSBA, appointment of superintendents provides a broader pool of qualified candidates and removes residency limitations, allowing the selection to be based solely on professional qualifications and leadership skills rather than the political savvy of only those individuals living in a particular district and willing to run for office.
An appointed superintendent is accountable to the board of education and may be replaced for failure to achieve standards and goals established by the local board and the state.
The resolution states history in Tennessee has shown that most elected superintendents are voted out of office after one term.
Alabama, Florida and Mississippi are the only states that continue to participate in the practice of electing school superintendents, electing less than 1 percent of the nearly 15,000 superintendents in the United States.
The TSBA believes the General Assembly will “undoubtedly continue to face pressure to revert to elected superintendents, particularly from some local funding bodies reluctant to increase education funding and improve school system budgets and frustrated with the lead advocacy roles of appointed superintendents.”
William Brinkley made a motion to adopt the resolution recognizing the value of appointed superintendents and rejecting any attempt to revert to superintendent elections. Silvers seconded.
The third resolution opposes pending legislation before the General Assembly that would create a voucher program allowing students to use public education funds to pay for private school tuition.
According to TSBA, more than 50 years have passed since private school vouchers were first proposed, and during that time, proponents have spent millions attempting to convince the public and lawmakers of the concept’s effectiveness. Yet, five decades later, vouchers remain controversial.
Vouchers eliminate public accountability by channeling dollars into private schools that do not face state-approved academic standards, do not make budgets public, do not adhere to open meetings and records laws, do not publicly report on student achievement, and do not face public accountability.
In addition, vouchers are an inefficient use of taxpayer money, the TSBA states, because they compel taxpayers to support two school systems, one public and one private, the latter of which is not accountable to all the taxpayers supporting it.
Silvers made a motion to adopt the resolution opposing any legislation or other similar effort to create a voucher program in Tennessee that would divert money intended for public education to private schools.
Keith Ervin seconded the motion.
Dykes said 91 percent of school districts polled agreed with the TSBA on the first two resolutions, and 94 percent were in favor of the third.