Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was in Nashville today to offer support for Governor Bill Lee’s plan to use public money to fund private schools.
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“I’m really cheering the governor and all of the legislators on here,” DeVos told reporters during a brief news conference at LEAD Cameron, a middle school operated by a Nashville-based charter network.
“School choice and education freedom is on the march,” she added.
One of Lee’s proposals would start a new type of education voucher program in Tennessee, and the other would create a state commission with the power to open charter schools anywhere across Tennessee through an appeals process.
While evidence from states around the country indicates that vouchers simply don’t improve student achievement, Lee has pushed forward with a plan known as Education Savings Accounts, a type of “voucher” particularly susceptible to fraud.
Lee’s plan is expected to cost at least $125 million a year by the time it is fully implemented, three years from now. It’s likely the plan will effectively create a “voucher school district” and result in local tax increases as a result of money moved from the state’s school funding formula (BEP) to the voucher scheme.
In addition to vouchers, Lee is also pushing a state charter school authorizer plan that would usurp the authority of local school boards and create a climate similar to the one in Arizona, where the charter industry has been riddled with fraud.
Lee’s voucher scheme is moving through the legislative process, passing a key House committee today and heading toward a likely floor vote near the end of April.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport