Just days after it was revealed that Gov. Bill Lee’s privatizer of choice, Christian Nationalist Hillsdale College, will be again attempting to open publicly funded schools in the state, a move is underway to expand the state’s voucher program.
This despite Lee’s pledge when the program was approved in 2019 that it would be at least five years before vouchers moved beyond Memphis and Nashville.
Readers might well remember all the scandal surrounding that original voucher vote:
Now, Chalkbeat reports that Hamilton County state Senator Todd Gardenhire has introduced legislation that would expand the program to schools in Chattanooga.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire, a Chattanooga Republican, wants the legislature to expand the eligibility criteria for the education savings account program to include students in districts with at least five of the state’s lowest-performing schools, as identified in the last three “priority school” cycles since 2015.
Under those criteria, Hamilton County Schools, which is based in Chattanooga, would qualify
Make no mistake – the ultimate goal is full privatization of public education in Tennessee. It has been Gov. Lee’s goal all along:
In 2018, I wrote:
In spite of years of evidence of where Bill Lee stands when it comes to supporting our public schools (he doesn’t), many school board members and county commissioners across the state supported his successful campaign. These local elected officials often touted his business acumen and support of vocational education as reasons to back him. However, it’s difficult to imagine these same officials just “didn’t know” Bill Lee backs a scheme to divert public money to private schools — a scheme that has failed miserably time and again in other states and localities.
More likely, they just didn’t care. Bill Lee was on the right team and spoke the right, religiously-tinged words and so earned the support of people who will look at you with a straight face and say they love Tennessee public schools.
Much the same can be said of 2022 – Lee spent four years assaulting public education and yet many local officials stood by him because he wears an “R” on his jersey and is affiliated with a familiar brand of Christianity.
Will these same elected officials be surprised when local taxes rise and public education is replaced by Hillsdale’s theocracy-promoting charters?
Or is this the future they’ve been waiting for?
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport
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