Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We Ask Ed Committees: Where's Your Economic Impact Statement from Outsourcing Education?

What is TN's Economic Loss from Outsourcing Education?

This seems like a legit question, yes not one member of either House or Senate education committees, nor Gov. Haslam nor Speaker Harwell have substantially replied yet.  Well, we are waiting.  Below is the full message we sent to one and all yesterday:

Dear Rep. XXX,

Since the founding of our country, No Tax for Religion has been our principle.  I cannot see how we explain to Tennesseans that legislators would spend their tax money on someone else's religion---or an out-of-state corporation's profits.   But, the voucher bill would serve only those narrow niches, which add no nourishment to the education smorgasbord we already offer.

What's the hurry?   Has the education committee made a study of the economic impact of further outsourcing education delivery?   We already have K12Inc., a Virginia corporation whose CEO made $3.94 million last year, although they recently were caught cheating on their test reports to the state, and their education results scrape bottom.  How much money do Tennessee and our counties hand over to this outfit?  Is $16 million a year accurate?  Their sales, marketing and administrative costs are 29.8% of their revenues, so of our $16 million, $4.768 million of that includes recruiting new students to replace K12's dropouts.

What about the effects of even more out-of-state, for-profit corporations, which would be allowed via the vouchers?  How many administrators, teachers, support staff and allied services would be taken out of Tennessee, and what would be the economic impact of those lost jobs?   Add to that charter management corporations and charter schools based out of state.  Great Hearts, for instance, is based in Arizona.  For each charter school they might place in Tennessee, how many Tennessee jobs would be lost, and what would be the economic impact on our state?

In yesterday's Tennessean that same point was made by Bob Higgins, CEO of Nashville-based Barge, Waggoner architects and engineers.  Higgins wrote that having an impact study for bills under consideration would "better inform legislators about how changes in state law might affect Tennessee’s economy."  Link:

Will you please bring this up to the education committee?  Will you ask for an economic impact analysis before moving these bills along?

If we are going to be political rather than deliberative about these bills and "school choice" is the talking point, we already have home school, charters, online, public schools and independent schools.   Those choices and others that various school systems have implemented, such as magnet schools in Nashville, are enough, aren't they?   If not, why not? 

At a time when our education delivery is being disrupted by this expansion of charter schools, the overweighting of narrow tests and attacks on teachers and unions, why is it so urgent that we jump into voucher schools?  In addition to obtaining an economic impact statement, would it also be more prudent to digest some of these changes, and Memphis' consolidation, before throwing another wrench in the works?

Do you think traditional public schools could become something of a dumping ground for poverty level students and students with disabilities and special needs?  The language in the voucher bill suggests as much.

It seems infinitely more logical to build up the system we have, rather than splitting it apart, which among other things would make the whole process cost more as administrative functions are duplicated across many more entities. 
Since some committee members have made business analogies, we must note that corporate America trends to consolidation, in part for efficiency of operation.

Thank you for considering these questions.

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