Back in January of 2016, now-gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee wrote an op-ed claiming that adding school vouchers to the mix in Tennessee’s education landscape would lead to improved education outcomes.
Here’s what he had to say:
This is where opportunity scholarships come in. The Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act would allow families to take a portion of the funding already spent on their child’s education and send him or her to the private school of their choice. For children languishing in schools that are failing to meet their needs, especially in urban areas like Nashville and Memphis, this proposal represents a much-needed lifeline for Tennessee families.
Recent evidence tells us that’s not the case. In fact, studies of voucher programs in D.C., Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio indicate students lose ground academically when accepting a voucher and attending a private school.
Writers Mary Dynarski and Austin Nichols say this about the studies:
Four recent rigorous studies—in the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio—used different research designs and reached the same result: on average, students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests than similar students that do not attend private schools. The Louisiana and Indiana studies offer some hints that negative effects may diminish over time. Whether effects ever will become positive is unclear.
Last year, Lee was peddling the myth that private schools offered better opportunity for kids. After analyzing the date, Dynarski and Nichols say this:
If the four studies suggest anything, it’s that private schools have no secret key that unlocks educational potential.
Visiting Lee’s campaign website yields little information about his views on actual policy. Of course, it is early in the campaign. However, it’s not clear if he still believes Tennessee tax dollars should be spent on voucher schemes that have been shown to have negative results in other states.
If Lee does in fact continue to advocate for vouchers, he’ll need to explain why Tennessee should invest in a program that has gotten such bad results across the country.
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