By State Representative Susan Lynn
Why should legislators consider voting for a law that will more than likely never affect their districts? The Governor’s School Voucher bill will not affect 95% of all school districts in Tennessee – especially not Wilson County Schools. So why vote for the bill?
Some might answer - because if we support the Governor the Governor will support us. I definitely give the Governor credit for being much more objective than that.
Last week the school voucher bill was in the committee on which I serve – Finance, Ways and Means. We heard a great deal of testimony. Many were afraid of what vouchers might do to school operational funds, and to the remaining students. One father was very insulted that his child’s school was labeled a “failing school”, and he did not want the option of school vouchers to be available no matter what.
All of the advocates for the vouchers were African American, and most of them had children in failing schools. These have been failing for as long as anyone can recall. They are schools where on average only 47% of the children entering graduate; where the highest ACT score is a 14; where 93% of the students are not proficient in math or ELA.
These parents came to plead for a future for their children. These parents and their children live in communities with the 53% who do not graduate – where far too many end up unemployed, on government assistance, in gangs, on drugs, in jail or dead. The fear and pain of these parents was very evident.
I have a district with great schools, committed staff and teachers and dedicated parents. So why should I care about the Governor’s school voucher bill when it is estimated to effect only 2.9% of all students in the state? I believe that I should care because we preach about the American dream to children all the time when we know full well that thousands are locked in failing schools with literally no way of ever reaching that dream. Morally, providing these students with a school voucher option is the right thing to do.
Rep. Susan Lynn represents the 57th legislative district in the Tennessee state House. Lynn is chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources General Subcommittee and also serves on Finance Ways and Means Committee.