School Board Opposes Voucher Program

TONY STINNETT, Courier Co-Editor

The Cannon County Board of Education voted on three different Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) Resolutions during its monthly meeting Thursday.

The Board considered a voucher program, appointed superintendent and academic calendar as part of proposed state-wide legislation.

"These are support resoluations that will be sent to Lee Harrell (TSBA Director of Government Relations)," Director of Schools Barbara Parker told the board members. "TSBA has a position that each system is to approve them or if you don't approve them I don't send them. This is data to see how many of the systems are wanting this legislation or not."

Chairman Randy Gannon told the Board it was voting on what legislation the Cannon County Board of Education supports. The information would be gathered from school boards statewide and taken into consideration for the TSBA vote.

The Cannon County Board of Education unanimously voted against a voucher program that would divert money intended for public education to private schools.

TSBA advocates that funds raised by general taxation for educational purposes should be administered by public officials and should not be used to support privately operated schools through tuition tax credits, vouchers or block grants.

The Board also considered a resolution in favor of appointing superintendents as opposed to holding elections for that position. Board member Shannon Davenport told fellow members the TSBA is not in favor of going back to elections for these positions.  TSBA supports the appointment of the director of schools by the board of education and opposes any measure to revert to the process of electing superintendents.

"The reason they are for (appointed positions) is they think it takes the political sense out of it," Davenport said.

Board member Mike Mayfield said he believed elections were the way to go. Only three states - Alabama, Florida and Mississipppi - hold elections for the position of school superintendent/director.

Board member Blackburn made the motion supporting an appointment of the director of schools and Board member Cathy Hyatt seconded. The motion carried 3-2 with Gannon and Mayfield opposing.

The TSBA also opposed legislation that would allow the state to set the school calendar.

According to Parker, support of this legislation would include setting a state-wide start date for all schools.

"Everyone would start school the same day, state-wide," Parker said. "That date would be the fourth Monday of August."

Though local systems would have an opportunity to set break dates and other dates on the school calendar, establishing a uniform start date would handcuff educators as there are only so many days to get in the 180 days required.

Cannon County board members unanimously supported the TSBA's opposition to legislation that would allow the state to set the school calendar.

The Board also unanimously voted to host the Fall District Meeting, Sept. 6. Parker told the members Cannon County is in the rotation and it was its turn to host. The event draws up to 150 annually.

"I think it would be an honor for our system to have something like this," Hyatt said. "I think if you have an opportunity to showcase your system, you should do it."

Parker also discussed the TSCPP System Improvement Plan, which was changed from a 3-year plan to a 1-year plan. It shows the system's greatest areas of progress and challenges. Systems are required to develop benchmarks and goals for reaching them. These goals are based on AYP and Race To The Top.

The Board also approved the consent agenda, which consisted of approving a resolution to add the Arts Center Ticket Subsidy to the Budget, as well as approving a copier lease for Woodland School and approving Ricky Mullins as an assistant basketball coach at East Side.

The next regular meeting of the Cannon County Board of Education will be at the Cannon County Courthouse, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m. The Board Meeting Workshop will be at the Central Office, Feb. 7, at 6 p.m.