Friday, May 13, 2011

It is time to pull the plug on the Chamber!

Tennessee's Chamber Maids
The Wall Street Journal, MAY 13, 2011
Nothing is worse for freedom and opportunity than when big business conspires with big labor. Behold the spectacle in Tennessee, where the Chambers of Commerce in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville have joined with the teachers unions to kill education vouchers.
That proposal, which has already passed the state senate, would give thousands of low- and middle-income parents in failing school districts private school options. The Tennessee Equal Opportunity Scholarship Act would provide vouchers of between $4,000 and $5,000 per child to families with an income up to ...
To continue reading the article you must be a subscriber to the WSJ so I have not bothered to link. The above portion is the essence of the story anyway. The article goes on to say that the Chambers trashed vouchers and told absolute lies claiming  that "there is no empirical data demonstrating that vouchers improve student achievement," and that private schools lack "accountability" and won't be subject to "high academic standards."

This is an outrage!  "High academic standards?" Our urban public schools are failing us miserably. There is overwhelming evidence that contradict these claims of the Chambers. Children in failing schools deserve a decent education. I wonder how many members of the leadership of the various chambers send their children to public schools?

In March I attended a meeting of First Tuesday and the topic was "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" and along with a representative of Mayor Dean's office and a spokesman from the State Department of Economic and Community Development, Mr.Ralph Schultz of the Greater Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce was a guest. What I came away with from Mr. Schultz comments was this: The city of Nashville pays the overwhelming money to support the community development function of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce but almost all of the new plants or corporate headquarters locating in the Nashville area are locating in the Nashville bedroom communities. Nashville pays the bill and Cool Springs, Lavergne, Hendersonville and Mt. Juliet are getting the benefit. I thought, "we are suckers."

Now, on top of that, I learn that the Chamber is actively campaigning against education reform!

It is time to pull the plug on the Chamber. Local businesses should refuse to join or renew their membership in the Chamber.  The city of Nashville should withhold funding and should not renew any contracts with the Chamber. Tourism and convention promotion is a valuable function provided by the chamber, but I have no doubt that we could find one of our talented public relation firms who would love to contract to provide this service.The Chamber should not get a single dime of public support!

Candidates for Metro Council should be asked if they will commit to withdrawing support for the Chamber which is not working in our best interest and does not deserve our support.

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  1. The Wall Street Journal’s May 13 op-ed piece, “Tennessee’s Chamber Maids,” contains misinformation about why the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, along with the chambers of commerce in Knoxville and Chattanooga, requested more time to review recent school voucher legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly (SB485/HB388). We would like to clarify the reason for the Chamber's position and correct inaccuracies in the piece.

    The Nashville Chamber has been a leader in advocating for education reform and accountability. We have publicly endorsed legislation reforming teacher tenure, educator accountability in the form of annual evaluations tied to student achievement, and expansion of the state’s charter school law. We are helping better prepare students for college and eventual career by connecting business leadership to our high schools through the Academies of Nashville, and we fully supported the state’s efforts and success in winning the $500 million federal Race to the Top award.

    In our April 27 letter, we clearly stated that a voucher system needs to be debated more thoroughly. Educator accountability is a critical element in Tennessee’s education reform efforts, and the original bill included no accountability measures. Our concern about the bill was based on our own assessment, and was not influenced by the Tennessee Education Association.

    The Wall Street Journal was right to say that many private schools are high-quality institutions, but every student must experience high academic standards. The state cannot impose requirements on private schools, but it should require reporting if the schools accept public funding.

    More time is needed to allow for public discussion of the bill’s merits and the deliberate consideration of our concerns. We support the Tennessee House of Representative’s decision to refer the bill to a legislative study committee that will examine this issue before the 2012 session, and we look forward to the open debate and scrutiny that this new legislation deserves.

    Tennessee’s business community and metro chambers have worked hard to change the status quo for education, and those efforts have paid off with dramatic changes to Tennessee’s education laws. We are proud that Tennessee’s reforms have come to serve as examples to other states.

    The Wall Street Journal also published an inaccurate statement that the Nashville Chamber receives government subsidies of $3 million. Nashville’s Metro government contracts for economic development activity with the Nashville Chamber at $300,000 annually. This, combined with private industry investment of $3-4 million annually, has led to exceptional job growth in Davidson County. In fact, Nashville was just named the eighth best large city for job growth in the country by Forbes in May 2011. This video provides more information about the Chamber's economic development initiative, Partnership 2020:

  2. Rod -

    Great post! When I read the comments of the various Chambers regarding private schools, I actually burst out laughing. How ridiculous to contend that private schools are bad for education when for decades the goal of any concerned parent was to get their child into one.

    That the Chambers are taking this position and using this rationale is disturbing. As you note, these are the folks that are responsible for a large portion of the promotion of our cities.

    In the first place, what role do they have in Education that would permit them to publicly comment on the matter?

    In the second place, were they to be as irresponsible as they have been in inserting themselves in an issue which does not concern them, the least one could expect would be the use of factual information and support.

    Chamber maids? I think this is a crock of what comes in chamber pots ...