Vouchers – Potential factor impacting staffing model

Very important details emerge about voucher bill in Nashville. These types of bills drain resources out of this district and affect things like staffing models. And they only benefit small segments of the population. The reality is that much like charter schools, vouchers will drain money out of the system that we could use to decrease class size and increase local school administration. Winning combination for a school district.

And I can tell you as one of your commissioners, that this type of activity is accounted for in the budget and is part of the reason the staffing model in the county is being considered for change.

This war must be fought. And I can tell you that one of your own Brian Kelsey is pushing this.

Mark Norris is carrying this legislation for the governor. But I tell you “school choice” in all of its forms are  making education more expensive.. The way that the bill is written is to benefit Shelby County primarily meaning our budget coull be hit hard.

Governor Haslam’s voucher bill

Senate Bill 196 sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and its companion bill, House Bill 190 sponsored by Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) was filed Monday afternoon. The text of the bill can be found at this link: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/108/Bill/HB0190.pdf and the following is a summary of the “Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship” bill.

Student eligibility:

Student must:

reside in Tennessee

be zoned or enrolled in a public school in the bottom 5% of schools in overall achievement (schools in the ASD)

be no older than 22 years old

qualify for free or reduced price lunch

have been enrolled in a Tennessee public school during the two semesters preceding the semester the student receives a scholarship, is enrolling for the first time or previously received a scholarship

School eligibility:

Participating private schools must:

volunteer to participate in this program

provide notice on an annual basis of intent to participate, with notice of the number of available seats by grade level

be identified as a category I, II or III school pursuant to State DOE procedures

Annually administer state assessments or nationally recognized norm-referenced tests that measure student progress

Provide parents with annual assessment

Provide DOE with graduation rates and other data as determined by DOE

Comply with federal non-discrimination policies

Not discriminate against special needs students, but is only required to provide those services it already provides to assist students with special needs. The parent must acknowledge in writing to accept only services that are available in the school

Accept the scholarship amount as payment in full for the cost of tuition and fees

Allow students to remained enrolled for the duration of the school year at no additional cost if the student withdraws from the scholarship program

Submit to a limited audit

Require teachers to have a criminal background check

Other provisions of the bill:

The amount of the voucher would be the per pupil state and local funds required though the BEP. Students would be counted in the LEA’s student population for purposes of funding calculations.

There would be a limit of 5,000 vouchers in 2013-14, 7,500 the following year, 10,000 the following year and 20,000 in 2016-17 and subsequent years.

Voucher money would be paid directly to the private school. 

If the number of eligible students who submit applications exceeds the permissible number of scholarship available statewide or the available seats at participating schools for any grade level, the department will conduct a random selection process to award scholarships.

Private schools must show achievement growth is at expectations in order to continue participating the voucher program.

Means testing does not appear to be an ongoing requirement once a student qualifies for a voucher.

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The MCS Interim Superintendent – Why Do we Need One?

Last night, at the end of our board meeting, Board Member Chris Caldwell moved to appoint an interim superintendent to replace Dr. Kriner Cash. Dorsey Hopson who is the current SCS General Counsel was nominated to fill out the rest of the term ending on July 1. Martavious Jones moved to replace the name with Dr. Rod Richmond who is the current number two guy at MCS. Dr. Richmond only got one vote and Dorsey Hopson was appointed unanimously.

Several questions I would like to address:

1) Why does MCS have to have an interim superintendent? MCS is required by law to have a Director of Schools until the date the merger is effective. Until the merger, we will have two superintendents.

2) Why can John Aitken not just serve as both? You cannot have a director of schools serving two districts. However, Dorsey made it very clear that the goal was to wind down MCS operations by the July 1st merger date and he made it very clear that the merger effort needs to unite behind John Aitken.

3) Who will lead the merger and make the decisions? John Aitken

4) Is Dorsey Hopson qualified to be superintendent? Dorsey’s role is limited to the wind down of operations. The TSC (transition steering committee) is doing most of the merger work. Dorsey will oversee day-to-day operations. Dorsey is well-qualified to serve in the interim, is a great team player, and will not stand in the way of merger activities.

5) Will John Aitken be the SCS superintendent when the districts merge? The Board voted last night to approve an Ad HOC committee to conduct a superintendent search. That decision is slated to be made towards the end of May. John may or may not be the superintendent depending on how the votes fall. However, I can say that John has a great shot.

6) Why not Rod Richmond? Rod Richmond is a very seasoned administrator and has the respect of his colleagues. However, Rod plans to apply for the superintendent job and the board felt it was inappropriate to appoint him as interim since he has an interest in the job.

7) Is Dorsey interested in the job? Dorsey is an attorney and wants to be a judge one day. This is not a role that fits with his career.

Overall, I think that this appointment is good and will help clear the road for the final landing of this merged district.