School Voucher Folly

A disaster awaits as voucher vote looms

Peter Greene writes about school voucher legislation on the verge of being debate in the Tennessee General Assembly.

He notes:

Tennessee SB 2787 (also, HB 2468) is one of those odd little legislative tricks beloved by both parties and mysterious to ordinary mortals. It started out as a bill requiring the department of education to study school choice in other states and then make a report. Except by the time it’s done it won’t be about that at all.

This bill will be the vehicle for delivering on Gov. Bill Lee’s promise to create a universal school voucher scheme in Tennessee.

Green goes on to note that based on Tennessee’s education track record, vouchers are likely to be a disaster in the state.

Choice fans talk about the needs of students and families, but Tennessee with its rich history of grift-centered education reformsterism seems poised to once again put the interests of profiteers ahead of protecting the rights of families. Heaven only knows what this bill is going to look like when it finally assumes its final form, but I’m not optimistic.

And Greene has this to say about the lack of accountability measures for the schools accepting vouchers:

It would be nice, in a choice marketplace, to have some basic guardrails in place. We mostly don’t depend on market forces to protect us from markets that sell poisonous food. One would think that the government could provide that basic level of oversight for a school choice system, but voucher fans are far more likely to explicitly forbid government oversight, and true to form, none of the discussion surrounding this bill seems to center on what requirements vendors would have to meet in order to get some of those taxpayer-funded voucher dollars.

Tennessee’s Dead Horse

It’s the lack of investment in public education

After years of running budget surpluses, Tennessee this year has a bit of a budget crunch. For the first time in a decade, revenue numbers are coming below projections.

This is all happening while state leaders are pitching a $1.6 billion corporate tax break.

I’ve been writing about Tennessee policymakers missing the mark on investment in education for years now as well.

Beating a dead horse, some might say.

Over at The Education Report, I wrote recently about missed opportunities in that decade of surplus revenue.

As recently as 2021, the state had a $3.1 billion revenue surplus.

The next year? $2 billion.

But these years of surplus were not met with attendant investment in public education.

Tennessee did not boost starting teacher pay to $60,000 or provide free meals to all kids at school.

Now, we’re in a time of less revenue collection and an apparent commitment to grant a corporate tax break well in excess of $1 billion.

What gets left behind, then?

School funding.

The same dead horse.

Photo by Josephine Amalie Paysen on Unsplash

Vouchers: “Ineffective, Inefficient, Inequitable”

Chattanooga Unity Group opposes Lee’s voucher scheme

The Unity Group of Chattanooga is opposed to Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to expand a school voucher scheme and make vouchers universal in Tennessee.

The group points to Arizona as an example of a state where a once-small voucher program ballooned to create a significant budget shortfall.

After analyzing vouchers in other states in terms of costs and outcome, the Unity Group concluded that vouchers are:

“Ineffective, inefficient, and inequitable.”

Pastors Lament Lee’s Voucher Push

Southern Christian Coalition expresses concerns about Lee’s voucher plan

The Southern Christian Coalition is speaking out against Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher expansion plan. Lee gave additional details about the plan in his State of the State address last night. The scheme, as announced, would cost a projected $141 million in the first year of operation.

McIntyre said Gov. Lee’s voucher plan would harm our state’s public schools.

“Instead of trying to make the situation better and choosing to fully fund our public schools, Governor Lee is publicly promoting his voucher scheme, which we only take funds from school districts the state doesn’t already adequately fund, and instead funnel money to his friends and donors in the private school sphere.”

Former County Commissioner Running for Sumner School Board

Shellie Young Tucker seeking District 2 school board seat

In Sumner County, Shellie Young Tucker is seeking a seat on the School Board after serving four years on the County Commission from 2018-2022.

“My desire is to cultivate an educational environment that nurtures the growth and empowerment of every student. I’ll be your listening ear and fierce advocate.”

While on the County Commission, she was a consistent supporter of school funding in the district.

Democrats Slam Lee’s Voucher Plan as a “Scam”

Lawmakers speak out ahead of State of the State

In remarks delivered Friday, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair London Lamar challenged Gov. Bill Lee to lead on issues that make a difference for working families.

Among the topics addressed by Lamar was school vouchers. Here’s what she had to say:

Once again, Tennesseans are going to be told they should support a scam that defunds our neighborhood schools to subsidize private school tuition for wealthy families.

Lamar’s description of the impact of vouchers is especially salient in light of mounting evidence that school vouchers not only fail to improve student achievement but also exacerbate inequality.

Parish Announces School Board Campaign

District 9 race shaping up in Williamson County

A committed community volunteer and parent of two children in Williamson County Schools is running for School Board from District 9.

Shandus Parish announced her candidacy for a seat on the education policy-making body this week.

As for why she’s running, Parish says, “Growing up, public school was my sanctuary—a refuge of safety and enrichment where I could thrive away from my challenging home life. For me, school was more than just a place to learn. It was a place where I had agency, where my income, background, and zip code didn’t matter. Now, as a parent, I want to ensure that every child in Williamson County has access to the same opportunities that shaped my life.”

More on Williamson County elections: