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Concerns Raised Over China Trip - John Dunn

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NASHVILLE, TN - Concerns are being raised about Tennessee school principals traveling to China to learn about education. Some say it is a waste of money, involving a program that cost $700,000 of taxpayer money.

The trip to China is a part of a year-long collaboration between Tennessee educators and a university in Shanghai. Opponents are not happy, and are now distributing postcards to certain lawmakers which say "Commie Core."

18 elementary and middle school principals from across Tennessee visited Shanghai in September.

"It's troubling that of all the ways we can spend our money that this is where it goes," says Julie West, President of Parents for Truth in Education. West has signed on to a letter which calls the trip a waste of money. She also questions Chinese values.    

"Could we not find a country that more closely espouses U.S. ideals about individualism, independent thought, and freedom?," says West.

The State Department of Education granted Vanderbilt University $700,000 for this program.  The idea was to teach Tennessee teachers some of the successful methods used in China. Chinese students are known for having some of the world's highest standardized test scores.

No one from the state was able to comment, but a spokesperson tell us the money was originally given to Tennessee as part of the "Race to the Top" funding, and $75,000 dollars was used for travel expenses.
   
Vanderbilt Professor Patrick Patrick Schuermann, who leads the project, released a statement saying the trip "...provided an invaluable, firsthand opportunity to learn from innovative and proven teacher development techniques that will help strengthen instructional leadership...and increase student outcomes across the state of Tennessee."
 
Political consultant and former radio host Steve Gill is also speaking against the trip. He was passing out the "Commie Core" postcards and letting lawmakers know there are critics of the China trip. "This is ultimately going to be a political battle, and they will pay a political price for it if they don't listen to their constituents," says Gill.

School principals from Murfreesboro and Nashville were among the 18 educators who traveled to China in September. Next spring a group of Chinese educators will visit Nashville to see how the principals have implemented what they've learned.

For news updates follow John Dunn on twitter @WZTVJohnDunn

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