The leaders of Pastors for Tennessee Children wrote an excellent appeal to the state’s leaders, based on common sense, experience, and research. William Terry Ladd and Amy Frogge, a former member of the Metro Nashville school board, point out that the state has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on privatization schemes that have failed. It’s time now to invest in community schools that address the genuine needs of children, they write.

None of these options has made a sustainable difference. In fact, vouchers and charter schools have made it worse, serving to exacerbate existing inequities in school systems by draining desperately needed funding from the neighborhood schools that serve around 90% of Tennessee’s students...

The reason these “solutions” haven’t made any real impact is simple: None address the root of the problem, namely the challenges faced by increasing numbers of Tennessee children who come to school without necessary resources and support at home.

The impact of poverty on learning coupled with the chronic lack of adequate funding for public education in Tennessee is a recipe for disaster.  Many of Tennessee’s children, most often those in poverty, have experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences- some due to the opioid crisis that has ravaged rural communities and others due to the challenges of growing up in low-income urban environments...

First, we must agree to invest in Tennessee’s schools and children. Statewide, Tennessee schools are underfunded by about a billion dollars per year, and our state ranks 45th in the nation in school funding.

So many of our educational inequities are caused by lack of proper school funding, and principals and teachers continuously struggle with unfunded state mandates, often providing classroom funds from their own poorly-paid pockets.

Second, widening the reach of Tennessee’s community school model is a proven solution that truly helps children, because it addresses the root cause of low student achievement: the issues that students face outside of school on a daily basis that impact their ability to focus in the classroom...

Community schools are open to all students within a community and have been shown to improve student learning, strengthen families, and create healthier communities. Because community schools provide a wide range of activities for students and their families, such as community gardens, arts programs, and sometimes even evening meals for families in need, they often become the hub of the community.

Will anyone in Tennessee’s state government listen or will they insist on pouring hundreds of millions of dollars more into failed strategies?