School vouchers debate continues after holiday break - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

School vouchers debate continues after holiday break

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(WMC-TV) - The six municipal mayors in Shelby County will return to closed door talks Thursday about the future of a merged school system.

School board commissioners have also been included in the discussions.

Before the talks broke for the holidays, participants said they were optimistic about the future.

But, Memphis Education Association President Keith Williams said school vouchers are not a friend of public education.

"Vouchers take public money and give it to private coffers. I have never supported it.  Nor has the NEA, TEA nor MEA," said Williams. 

Shelby County School Board Commissioner Kenneth Whalum, Jr. disagrees.

"I am absolutely, wholeheartedly in support of vouchers for public education," said Whalum. 

Williams said vouchers defy the true definition of "public" education by allowing students to use public funds to go to private school.

"We see it as a way of trying to privatize public funds.  It does not provide for all children at all schools," said Williams. 

Whalum said dismissing vouchers, after surrendering the Memphis school charter, is like the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship - when the captain ordered a special meal while the ship sank, and then took his own life boat to safety.

"Now, when people are coming up with little life boats, we're saying, 'no, no, no' we want all our kids to drown. I'll be...darned if that's so. No way in the world. I'm supporting every life boat," said Whalum. 

Williams said money lost from vouchers would destabilize Memphis schools.

"It diminishes the financial stability of public education," said Williams. 
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