Lee moves forward with planned privatization of state’s public schools
Despite mounting evidence suggesting that universal school voucher programs are both expensive and ineffective, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee seems determined to deliver on a promise from his 2018 campaign. That promise? Privatizing public schools.
Gov. Bill Lee is preparing to announce a plan to dramatically expand Tennessee’s controversial school voucher program, allowing K-12 students to receive taxpayer funding for private school regardless of need, according to talking points obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Lee has long been an advocate of using tax dollars to fund unaccountable private schools.
Even though as early as 2016, Bill Lee was extolling the virtues of school voucher schemes and even though he’s a long-time supporter of Betsy DeVos’s pro-voucher Tennessee Federation for Children and even though he has appointed not one, but two voucher vultures to high level posts in his Administration, it is somehow treated as “news” that Bill Lee plans to move forward with a voucher scheme agenda in 2019.
Lee has continued his steady march toward full privatization of schools since 2019. Securing passage of his voucher scheme, advancing legislation that created a charter school commission, inviting Hillsdale to hijack our schools.
He even made a successful push to change the state’s school funding formula to make it more appealing for private schools to accept vouchers.
Now, he’s going for the final blow: A universal school voucher plan.
This plan will be expensive and is not likely to have a positive impact on academic achievement.
In the above article, written in 2017, I noted:
Nearly 15,000 students who never attended public school suddenly receiving vouchers would mean a state cost of $98 million. That’s $98 million in new money. Of course, those funds would either be new money (which is not currently contemplated) or would take from the state’s BEP allocations in the districts where the students receive the vouchers.
Since then, two things have happened.
Lee’s plan envisions 20,000 students AND the guaranteed minimum voucher amount has increased.
The cost now would be $141 million. That doesn’t include any local offset for lost local funding (estimated to be about $8 million in Davidson County alone back in 2017).
If the state absorbs the cost, rather than passing it on to local taxpayers, there would need to be a fund of at least $100 million to cover those costs.
So, at minimum, Lee’s plan creates a voucher school district costing an additional $250 million a year.
All while our state remains in the bottom 10 in school funding.
Oh, and if the state does not create an offset fund, local taxpayers would be footing the bill – which would mean either local property tax increases (as happened in Indiana) OR a decrease in services offered in traditional public schools.
Lee is delivering on his promise, even though it’s expensive and even though data from other states and early data from Tennessee suggests it won’t improve student achievement.
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