Earlier this legislative session, voucher bill sponsor Brian Kelsey said TNReady was a “disaster” and he wouldn’t want to force it on private schools accepting public funds by way of vouchers.
Then, last week, he changed his tune.
Here’s how Grace Tatter of Chalkbeat reported it:
Sen. Brian Kelsey, the architect of Tennessee’s voucher bill, said he would prefer requiring students who use vouchers to take nationally normed tests, like they do in Florida and several other states with voucher programs.
But he said he understands why policymakers want to make “apple to apple” comparisons between public schools and private schools accepting government dollars. “If that gives policymakers greater comfort to vote for the bill, then I am all for that,” said the Germantown Republican.
And, with Kelsey’s blessing, the bill was amended in the House Government Operations Committee last week to include a requirement that students receiving vouchers take the TNReady test. Yes, the one Kelsey called a disaster.
Exactly one week later, this happened:
The panel voted narrowly to amend the bill so that voucher participants could take tests in their private schools that are different from what their counterparts take in public schools. But lawmakers stopped short of sending the amended bill to their finance committee after Rep. Mike Stewart, who opposes vouchers, moved to adjourn.
So, is TNReady a disaster, but one that’s worth risking in order for private schools to get public money? Or, should private schools choose their own tests?
Here’s what we do know: In states like Indiana and Louisiana, students receiving vouchers must take state tests. The results in those states paint a picture of vouchers as an education reform that not only doesn’t help kids, but also pushes them further behind. Yes, students in Indiana and Louisiana who received vouchers actually lost ground academically when they went to private schools.
For now, voucher legislation in Tennessee is stalled in the House Government Operations Committee. The Senate version is sitting in the Finance Committee there, still not scheduled for a vote.
To test or not to test? That seems to be the core question and the final answer may determine whether a voucher bill passes this session.
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