Gov. Bill Haslam calls his school voucher program, the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act, the perfect solution for those students who are struggling in one of the state's 83 "priority," or "failing," schools, as determined by student test scores. The amount of a voucher is determined by the cost of student education at a public school.
I'm concerned about funding from public school funds. This could impair the financial status of public schools already struggling in this area. I'm also concerned about the requirements for awarding vouchers.
Close examination of this new "opportunity" act reveals that it offers aid to only a select few. By attending a priority school, a student must be eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Diane Silvers Ravitch, a nationally prominent educational policy analyst, claims that a schools status should be evaluated based upon the teachers' performance, not just students' test scores. She advocates improving public education as an essential institution of society. She believes it's possible to improve public education by putting tax dollars back into the public school system, leading to socioeconomic improvement.
We ought to use public money to aid failing schools, not the economically disadvantaged students at those schools. We shouldn't make matters worse than what they are.
Some motorcyclists and legislators argue for the freedom to increase their risk of death in a motorcycle wreck by 40 percent by not wearing a helmet. These choices place a financial burden on the public by raising insurance premiums and taxes, lost revenue and medical expenses paid by government-funded health care.
A study of 105 motorcyclists hospitalized at a major trauma center determined that more than 63 percent of their care was paid for by public funds, with Medicaid accounting for over half of all charges.
In 2000, Florida weakened its helmet law from a universal law, like Tennessee's, to a partial helmet law, like the one that's been proposed. In the 30 months that followed the new law, there was a 40 percent increase in motorcyclists admitted to hospitals for treatment, and deaths increased by 24 percent.
In that same 30 month period, deaths of unhelmeted riders under the age of 21 increased by 188 percent, even though the helmet law still applied to them.
Motorcycle crash-related hospitalizations rose more than 40 percent, and the cost of treating head injuries from motorcycle crashes more than doubled to $44 million.
Can Tennessee afford to double our medical expenses?
LARRY HENRY, County Commissioner