Chair of Knox County Board of Education: We can offer assistance to both public schools and school choice

In today’s political landscape, it is unfortunate that we often find ourselves in two opposing camps: you are either on our side or against us. While this may be understandable when it comes to matters of national defense, it is not an approach that should be applied to our children. It is imperative that we strive for better outcomes for the families of Tennessee.

The discussion surrounding school choice, specifically education freedom accounts, has created a divide among the people of Tennessee. Individuals are either in favor of public schools or opposed to them.

I strongly disagree with that statement.

My children attend public school

As the chair of the Knox County Schools Board of Education, I am honored to serve in this role. However, my most cherished role is that of being a mom. Through my own experience, I have witnessed the transformative power of a quality education in the lives of children. I have had the privilege of observing dedicated public educators who tirelessly devote their time to serving our students. It is because of my unwavering belief in the strength of our public school system that my husband and I have made the decision to send our children to our local public school.

I am also a strong advocate for school choice.

I firmly believe that parents should have the authority to make choices that align with their child’s educational needs, especially if they are unable to afford alternative schooling options. It is crucial to understand that these beliefs are not contradictory, but rather revolve around one common goal: prioritizing the well-being and development of the child.

Education plays a pivotal role in shaping a future where every child has the chance to thrive. The concept of school choice has the potential to unlock countless opportunities for students, even in situations where they may seem limited or nonexistent.

Many Tennesseans were disappointed by the General Assembly’s inability to implement a statewide school choice initiative. Our children have limited time to wait as they grow up.

Parents should have flexibility to make choices for their children

To fully grasp the significance of this decision, we must explore the advantages that genuine school choice would have provided to families throughout our state. Picture a mother with a dyslexic child, desperately searching for a school that can cater to her child’s specific needs. Consider a low-income family whose child has endured bullying, yearning for a different educational setting. And think about a single mother who cannot afford to relocate but recognizes that the designated school for her child is not the right fit. For the very first time in Tennessee, these parents would have had the opportunity to make tangible choices for their children.

Education should level the playing field for all children, irrespective of their socioeconomic status or geographical location. It is crucial to provide every parent, regardless of their income or ZIP code, with the same educational opportunities that families who are financially well-off currently enjoy. This will enable every child to thrive and succeed, breaking the cycle of inequality and ensuring a brighter future for all.

The opponents of school choice often argue that it would deprive public schools of the resources they desperately need. However, this claim is far from reality. In Knox County, our budget has witnessed a significant increase of 35% over the past five years. Moreover, this increase does not even take into account the federal pandemic relief measures that have amounted to over $150 million. It’s important to note that these funding increases have occurred despite a decrease in student population.

I have consistently supported measures to raise teacher salaries, enhance safety measures, and allocate more funds for high-quality education. I firmly believe that enhancing our public schools and overall education system is crucial.

The argument that we cannot do both, fund education and support students, is simply an excuse to maintain the current system instead of prioritizing the needs of children. This argument fails to acknowledge the diverse learning styles and individual needs of each child. Every child is unique, and it is our responsibility to provide them with the necessary support and resources to thrive.

Our children cannot afford to wait any longer. It is imperative that the legislature acts now and grants every family the freedom to choose. We must not let another year pass without taking action.

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MBS Staff
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