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  • Writer's pictureTodd McKinley

School Choice vs School Vouchers

Updated: Feb 29

Title: School Choice vs School Vouchers

To quote a line from President Kennedy’s “Moon Speech” given at Rice University on September 12th, 1962, “In an age of both knowledge and ignorance, the greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.”


“Why did he start with that quote” you might be asking. It’s simple. We, contemporary humans, truly do live “in an age of knowledge and ignorance” except it seems that society currently allows our ignorance to stifle our knowledge. However, we can change that by placing more emphasis on commonsense education policies, and that’s for beginners.


Making Public Education Work


Given that I’m running for the Sullivan County School Board in District 5, I want to see our public schools prosper and those who graduate from our schools flourish and succeed.


This starts by working to improve and strengthen our public schools. This can be accomplished not simply by throwing money at the problem(s), but by understanding our shortcomings and finding real solutions, not one-size-fits-all solutions. We need to begin by hiring and retaining the best teachers and administrators, which requires adequate pay and benefits. It also requires removing the “woke agenda,” national teachers unions, the federal Department of Education (which should be abolished), and other such nonsense from our schools once and for all.


Simultaneously, we must allow teachers and schools to innovate, to find ways (new & old) to reach students, as well as provide a curriculum that sets our students up to be successful in the world, they’re likely to find, instead of trying to indoctrinate them or teaching to a standardized test.


I can say that I’m ready to do my part. I’m ready to be a bulwark against bad ideas, be they from the left or the right.   


When it comes to “School Choice” and “School Vouchers,” local School Board Members have no say, besides (perhaps) passing a nonbinding resolution expressing their thoughts, and of course voting for State Legislators like every other voter, as this is a matter that will be decided in Nashville, not the Sullivan County School Board. However, since I’ve had many questions when it comes to school choice and school vouchers, in my book, the two aren’t precisely the same things, but I wanted to go on the record here.


School Choice vs School Vouchers


To me, school choice is a basic freedom. In other words, a person’s school shouldn’t necessarily be determined by one’s physical address, especially if the school the government says one must attend is failing or doesn’t meet the needs of the student(s) and their families. In other words, parents should be able to send their kids to any public school in their home county, (which is a thing in Tennessee, but the parent must plan for transportation,) not just the one in their given school district. It also means that parents may homeschool or send their kids to a private school provided they’re accepted.


As a Commonsense, Constitutional Conservative, and a Republican, this boils down to exercising one’s “inalienable rights,” which are spelled out in the 2nd paragraph of the Declaration of Independence as “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”


Before delving into school vouchers, I want to say that taxpayer dollars should never support illegal immigrants (which is the legal term), the “woke agenda,” such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), social-emotional learning, or any revisional history, and that’s for starters.  


In Tennessee, when it comes to vouchers, we’re hearing a lot about the Governor’s education “freedom” plan. We’re also hearing some Republicans say that the state should attach oversight strings for homeschoolers in exchange for taxpayer dollars, which should be a non-starter. I say nonstarter because governments have no business getting in the business of home or private schools, even if school vouchers are used, after all the parents of the kids who attend these types of schools are also taxpayers in one way or another.


In other words, there’s no such thing as “government” money, it’s money that was first taken from the citizens or other areas. When I hear a politician in Tennessee talk about “government money,” I think I’m hearing a Congressional Democrat speaking on the U.S. House floor, and not a Tennessee Representative in Nashville. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe we shouldn’t have a government or public schools, it does mean that we should have a government that works for the people, instead of against them. And when it comes to education, that means local school boards working with parents, teachers, school administrators, and the local community all the time, and with the state in a positive cohesive manner when it makes sense.


Mind you, not everyone who homeschools or sends their children to a private school ever requests or uses any type of voucher. This could be due to many reasons. Regardless, the process should be open and honest, and nothing should be kept secret from the public. As JFK put it, “The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.”


As for me, I’ll not be secretive, I believe the amount of money parents receive should be equal to the amount paid per student within their given school district, nothing more, which is a wash for the local school, in other words, they lose one student, they lose the funding for that one student, which is fair.


I don’t believe any government be it local, state, or federal should stick their beaks into the business of private or homeschools. Think about it. With many failing public schools outside Sullivan County, and school systems, why would we allow the government to ruin those schools as well? Instead, they should first focus on making government-funded schools work.


Bottom Line


I’m committed to making our Sullivan County Schools work for everyone, but that doesn’t give me any authority over home or private schools. If you don’t like what the Tennessee State Legislature is going to roll out, may I suggest voting this August for a state legislator who shares your beliefs and values on this topic? This means getting involved politically to find candidates who’ll do all they can to make the right decisions, and less government interference is always the right call.



Todd A. McKinley, BA, MSL


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