Voucher Backers Earn Leadership Roles

While it is certainly clear that incoming Governor Bill Lee is a supporter of using public money to fund private schools by way of vouchers, it’s also worth noting that top leadership in both legislative bodies have a record of supporting school vouchers and receiving support from pro-voucher groups.

Soon-to-be House Speaker Glen Casada has long been a proponent of vouchers and has received thousands of dollars in campaign funding from groups like Students First/TennesseeCAN and the Betsy DeVos-backed Tennessee Federation for Children.

Likewise, newly-elected House Republican (and Majority) Leader William Lamberth has consistently received backing from pro-voucher groups.

Over in the Senate, the Lt. Governor’s spot continues to be held by Randy McNally, a long-time supporter of voucher schemes.

The number two job in the Senate again falls to Ferrell Haile of Sumner County, who between 2012 and 2016 was among the largest recipients (more than $20,000) of campaign backing from pro-voucher groups. Haile has also co-sponsored voucher legislation in spite of his local School Board opposing the measure.

The bottom line: The hot topic in the 2019 legislative session figures to be school vouchers.

One key fact to keep in mind as this debate rages: Vouchers don’t work.

What’s more, Indiana’s experience with what started as a relatively small voucher program quickly ballooned into millions of dollars in public money diverted to private schools:

Reports suggest this provision means Indiana is spending some $54 million supporting private schools — money that would not have been spent without the voucher program:

A report on the program released by the Department of Education shows the program costs $54 million.

“If the idea behind a voucher program is we’re going to have the money follow the student, if the student didn’t start in a public school, the money isn’t following them from a public school, it’s just appearing from another budget,” [Researcher Molly] Stewart said. “And we’re not exactly sure where that’s coming from.”

Vouchers, then, create $54 million in new expenditures — an education funding deficit — in Indiana.

So, even as our state’s policy leaders are squarely in the corner of voucher schemes — some bought and paid for by voucher backers, others, like Bill Lee, among those doing the buying — it’s important to stay focused on the facts. Vouchers are expensive and vouchers don’t work.

 

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Lamberth: Stop the Test

In response to the latest failure to deliver TNReady, State Representative William Lamberth issued the following statement via his Facebook page:

I have lost faith in Measurement Inc. and I believe it is time to cancel the test for this year and start over. Local school districts who have received the material should have the option of going forward with testing or not at their discretion. I agree that we need a TN specific test that is designed to evaluate how well TN children are learning certain subjects. That test should be designed by TN teachers and TN administrators to be easily implemented and should reflect what is actually being relayed in our classrooms. TN contracted with this company to accomplish this task and they have failed miserably in delivering a computerized version and now can’t even ship the paper version on time. It is time to start over. Measurement Inc. has failed TN teachers and TN students and should not get one red cent of our money. That’s just my opinion.

While the Department of Education has said it will grant districts flexibility in modifying testing schedules, they have not yet said they will cancel the tests or the contract with Measurement, Inc.

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