School Vouchers Open Up School Choice But Critics Say They Create Issues

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(Memphis) School choice takes center stage in Nashville in the New Year in the form of school vouchers also known as Opportunity Scholarships.

If you are not happy with your child’s education, you can use public dollars to send him or her to another school, public, private or parochial.

Tennessee Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown helped carve out the Opportunity Scholarship Bill that is being reviewed right now by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

“Last year we passed a bill to allow every single student in Tennessee to be eligible to attend a charter school.  This year we have to pass a wide-ranging Opportunity Scholarship Bill that would apply to low-income children through out the state,” Kelsey told us this week.

The proposal is to limit the scholarships to low-income students…

The scholarships would range between $6,200 to $9,200.

If students choose private school, they would be tested each year to monitor their academics.

But the head of the Memphis Teacher’s Union is opposed to any program that would take public dollars away from public schools.

“Whatever you take away from public schools will hurt.  If you take dollars away you will further erode what children in the school would get. It’s just like any other institution, it has to be supported for the good of all,” says Keith Williams,, President of the Memphis Education Association.

School Board Member Martavius Jones worries about the psychological impact on low-income students thrust into a private well-to-do school system, “If we just look at the materialistic society we live in today. They are gonna be able to compare and see what they lack versus what their peers and I think that could have a negative impact on how they perform academically.”

The task force that crafted  Tennessee’s Opportunity Scholarship Program says the scholarships have increased test scores and graduation rates in other states.

Jones says he has seen statistics showing just the opposite.