Education in TN – part IV

Where Do We Go From Here? – final in a series of 4

The Tennessee gubernatorial candidates for were recently asked for specific actions to improve education in Tennessee. Mayor Haslam: focus renewal efforts on inner city schools. McMillan: evaluate teachers on achievement gains by students and not test scores. State Sen. Kyle: universities should graduate students, not enroll them. Lt. Gov. Ramsey: need more Charter Schools and homeschooling. Gibbons: provide full scholarships for those planning to teach. Rep. Wamp: study “Best Practices” as we consider reform. McWherter: see teaching as a noble profession.

I guess I took a lot of notes. Actually, it reminded me a lot of school.

I maintain that too much at stake to tolerate inaction any longer. The following are basic steps we can take to improve the quality of our Education.

The first step is a departure from the regulations and programs of the Department of Education. Bringing the control of our school system back to Tennessee would create a culture of growth, responsibility, and accountability. The failure of our system would be the fault of none but us.

Second, remind the citizens of Tennessee that the taxpayers provide the funding for education. As a result, it is not an entitlement, but a privilege.

Third, cut the bureaucracy within the state and local school boards that stifles progress at the Federal level. This is an educational pursuit, not an administrative pursuit. We should also work to cut programs duplicated many times over that waste taxpayer dollars.

Fourth, establish schools that are self-governing, self-administered, with individual curricula that fit the school district where the Principal is the boss, able to hire and fire teachers and staff and who is evaluated by the people in his/her district.

Fifth, refuse to tolerate discipline problems in the classroom. If students cannot cooperate with the educational process, see #4 above.

Sixth, demand that parents, who enjoy the tax benefits provided by their fellow citizens in providing these educational opportunities, produce a minimum expectation of staying engaged with the progress of their children and cooperating with the local school. Parents who refuse to get children to school on time, with their homework completed, having their children ready to learn should be counseled and held accountable for their role in the education process. See #4 above.

Seventh, reorganize special education to certain geographically friendly district locations. Currently, special needs children may demand services at their neighborhood schools. This practice is unreasonably expensive and requires every school to have every staff member and tool available for these children. We certainly want to care for and educate these children, but parents should be willing to cooperate with the local school districts to make the best use of the people’s money. By synthesizing these special schools, these children will receive a better education with all the staff and educational tools there to serve them.

Last, in order to encourage the kind of competition necessary to ensure the best schools, let parents take their children to the best schools available. Encourage school options that get the job done, whether Charter Schools, voucher programs, homeschooling, non-college track high school programs, and see #4 above.

We chose a 4-part series on Education because this is an issue we cannot ignore. Too much is at stake for our children, for our state, and for our country. Our local and State legislators are correct to begin really looking at the challenges our system is facing. We cannot fail at this reform. It is far too important.

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