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.”

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.

Pastors Speak Out on Immorality of Vouchers

Southern Christian Coalition challenges Lee’s privatization agenda

A group of Tennessee pastors is calling on Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee legislature to move away from what it says are dangerous and morally questionable policies, including school vouchers.

Rev. Matt Steinhauer, one of the Interim Pastors of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Franklin, said, “Our teachers here in Tennessee work hard to provide every child a life and skill-forming quality education, yet Governor Lee is determined to get in the way by denying adequate funding, supporting distractions such as banning books, and now working to pass his harmful voucher scheme that would take funds meant for our public schools and instead give them to private schools.”


Of Vouchers and Inequality

The rich get richer, the poor get left behind

In this analysis of the potential long-term impacts of a universal school voucher scheme, the argument is made that vouchers amount to a transfer of wealth to the already wealthy.

The long game, then, is to dismantle public education, hand the profits to privateers, and restrict education resources such that the haves have more and the have-nots have never.

The privatization of Tennessee’s public schools has long been a goal of Gov. Lee:

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PTA Announces Opposition to Lee’s Voucher Plan

Parent advocates speak out against using public money for private schools

As Gov. Bill Lee unveils an expensive expansion of his school voucher scam, opposition is quickly mounting.

The Tennessee PTA has joined the many voices expressing opposition to school vouchers.

In order to ensure that taxes support every child’s education, we must maintain our commitment to a free educational system while also ensuring those in charge of managing the funds are responsible and transparent in their actions.

The group adopted an official position opposing vouchers in 2022. That position reads in part:

The Tennessee PTA advocates that funds raised by general taxation for educational purposes should be administered by public officials and should not be used to support privately operated schools . . .

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Faith Leaders Express Opposition to Lee’s Voucher Scam

Southern Christian Coalition calls for fully funded public schools

Gov. Bill Lee announced a massive expansion of a voucher scheme yesterday and faith leaders immediately spoke out in opposition.

Advocates with the Southern Christian Coalition noted that Lee’s plan would harm the state’s public school system and leave students behind. Representatives of the group said the plan is out of alignment with Lee’s proclaimed Christian faith.

Rev. Brandon Berg, Pastor of Norris and Sinking Springs United Methodist Churches in the Knoxville area, said:

“If Governor Lee claims the Christian faith, and we know he does, then he must change course and start to prioritize the education of every Tennessee child by fully funding our public schools and end this voucher scheme that would create even more inequity in Tennessee schools.”

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Delivering on a Promise

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.

NewsChannel5 reports:

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.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

The Path to Full Privatization of Public Schools

A former assistant commissioner in TN’s Department of Education explains how the impact of the state’s A-F grading system for schools

Tennessee has a new Commissioner of Education who is unapologetic in her zeal for privatizing the state’s public schools:

Now, a former Assistant Commissioner in the DOE says an A-F school grading system, set to be implemented this school year, is designed to further erode public support for public schools.

This should surprise no one as Gov. Bill Lee has long been an advocate of using public money to fund private school education:

And Lee wants to hand millions in state and local dollars to a Christian extremist charter school network, too:

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Lee Brings School Privatization to Chattanooga

Vouchers will be available for Hamilton County students in the 2023-24 school year

Gov. Bill Lee today signed a law expanding his school voucher scheme to Chattanooga.

More from NewsBreak:

Students in these districts (Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga) may receive a voucher in an amount equivalent to the state-generated funding provided to their home district for the student. Under the state’s new school funding formula (TISA), each student generates a specific dollar amount based on a range of factors. The vouchers should range from about $8,000 to around $15,000 depending on where a student lives, family income, and a series of other factors included in the TISA calculation.

Research has consistently shown that vouchers do not improve student outcomes:

In addition to vouchers, Lee is attempting to privatize the state’s public schools through a network of charter schools affiliated with extremist Hillsdale College.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

New Boss, Same Game

Tennessee’s new Education Commissioner will continue privatization push

There’s a new Commissioner of Education coming to Tennessee and Volunteer State residents will likely be unable to discern any policy differences when compared with outgoing Commissioner Penny Schwinn.

Jeb Bush – known for privatizing Florida public schools by way of both charters and vouchers – was quick to congratulate Lizzette Reynolds on her appointment as Tennessee’s next Education Commissioner.

Reynolds works for Bush’s pro-privatization issue advocacy group, ExcelinEd.

While Gov. Bill Lee credited outgoing Commissioner Schwinn with leading the way for the state’s school voucher program, it seems likely Reynolds will continue pushing various methods of school privatization.


Hillsdale Continues Push for TN Tax Dollars

Why Does TN Act Like a “Broke Dad?”

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport