Lee’s Voucher Loss

Governor fails to win approval of signature policy initiative

Gov. Bill Lee released a statement today admitting his signature legislative initiative, school vouchers, has failed for this session of the General Assembly.

I am extremely disappointed for the families who will have to wait yet another year for the freedom to choose the right education for their child, especially when there is broad agreement that now is the time to bring universal school choice to Tennessee.

Lee has long been an advocate of using public funds to support private schools.

Of course, the state already has a limited school voucher scheme operating in Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga.

Despite the likelihood of failure, policymakers rejected the idea of using funds earmarked for vouchers to fund other K-12 initiatives.


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More Dump Trucks?

TNReady not ready this morning . . . again

Reports this morning suggest that Tennessee testing vendor Pearson experienced technical difficulties and TNReady testing didn’t start or couldn’t happen in some school districts.

Image from Tweets by David Carroll and TNHoller

And another one:

TNReady only experiences problems every single year.

Remember when we were told a dump truck had knocked out a fiber line and that ended testing?

And then remember when it turned out it WASN’T a dump truck, but problems with the testing vendor?

Pretty funny – unless you were the kids taking the tests or the teachers tasked with administering them or the teachers, principals, and schools who are graded and evaluated by the flawed (and often not working) tests.

Oh, and remember how the General Assembly passed a ridiculous third grade retention law based on a test that should better be described as TN-NEVEREADY?

Oh – also just last year, testing vendor Pearson secured an additional $40 million in state funds for its failed experiment:

Just last year, there were challenges with administering the test:

So, imagine being a third grader at the end of your school year. You find out you have to retake an 85 minute test you’ve already taken. If you don’t do well enough, you have to go to summer school and possibly repeat third grade.

No pressure at all, right?

Then you show up for your retake and you’re ready to go and you have to wait for an hour or two while some tech issues are worked out.

It doesn’t matter that you’ve waited and are now likely extra anxious. This is it.

This test counts. For a lot – especially in the life of a 9-year-old.

This is the type of cruel and unusual punishment that passes for education policy in Tennessee.

And the worst part is, taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars to fund this insanity.

Sumner Resolved

Sumner School Board passes resolution opposing school vouchers

The Sumner County School Board is asking its legislative delegation to oppose efforts to privatize Tennessee’s public schools by way of a voucher scheme.

The Tennessean reports:

The Sumner County Board of Education met in a special-called session last week to vote on a resolution against Gov. Bill Lee’s Education Freedom Scholarship Act.

Sumner County Board of Education officials approved the resolution in a 9-1 vote. Sumner County Board of Education Chairman Tim Brewer abstained from the vote.

It’s unclear whether some version of an expanded voucher plan will move forward this legislative session.

Earlier this week, the Senate Finance Committee rejected an attempt to use funds allocated for vouchers ($144 million) to instead fund an increase in teacher pay. That funding would amount to a roughly 5% raise for all teachers.

Gov. Bill Lee promoting school privatization


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Vouchers vs. Teachers

Lawmakers reject additional investment in teacher pay

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee rejected a move that would have invested the $140 million+ allocated for Gov. Lee’s voucher scheme into an increase in teacher pay.

Sen. London Lamar proposed the budget amendment – suggesting moving money from a voucher plan that is unlikely to gain approval this session into additional investment in public schools.

“This amendment would take the K-12 education funding set aside for Gov. Lee’s school voucher program and reassign it to the K-12 student funding formula,” said Sen. Lamar. “There are so many needs our public school system has that this voucher money could be used for — one of which being teacher raises.”

The proposal failed on a party-line vote, with all nine Republicans on Senate Finance opposing the move.

crop man getting dollars from wallet
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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Throwin’ It All Away

Pro-voucher lawmaker wants to “blow-up” state’s “terrible” school system

Rep. Scott Cepicky made it clear that the motive behind Gov. Bill Lee’s signature public policy initiative, school vouchers, is tearing down the state’s public school system.

Nashville’s NewsChannel5 has more on Cepicky’s revelation:

The lead sponsor pushing school vouchers in the Tennessee state House says his goal with Tennessee’s public education system is to “throw the whole freaking system in the trash,” according to a recording obtained by NewsChannel 5.

Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, whose children attend a private religious school in Columbia, said he believes that “blow[ing] it all back up” is the only way to “fix” the state’s public schools, which he describes as “terrible.”


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Gov. Bill Lee promoting school privatization

Mobley Opposes Arming Teachers

School Board candidate speaks out against state legislation

Williamson County School Board candidate Elmer Mobley says he opposes legislative efforts that would allow some teachers to carry firearms while at school.

“SB1325 and HB1202 overlook evidence-based solutions to school safety while promoting a culture of fear and militarization,” Mobley stated. “Teachers are not trained law enforcement officers. Expecting them to handle firearms in high-stress situations without adequate training increases the potential for accidents, misuse, and escalation of violence. Even with extensive training, accidents can happen. A loaded firearm in a classroom increases the risk of accidental discharge and the potential of injuring or killing students or staff.”


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TN Senate Approves Legislation Allowing Teachers to Carry Guns

Moves state one step closer to armed teachers in classrooms

The Tennessee State Senate approved by a vote of 26-5 legislation that would allow some teachers to carry guns in schools.

WSMV in Nashville has more:

A bill that would allow teachers to carry a concealed gun on campus and school property is moving through the Tennessee General Assembly.

It passed on the Senate floor on Tuesday with 26 votes for and five votes against. On Thursday, it was held on the House’s desk.

If passed, this bill would allow school staff members to carry a concealed gun upon completing training, background checks and a psychological evaluation. Substitute teachers or part-time employees cannot participate.

It’s not yet clear whether the House will move the legislation forward. Should the House pass the legislation, it would go to Gov. Lee for his signature.

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Comedy of Errors

Lizzette Reynolds’ tenure as Commissioner of Education marked with many mistakes

Tennessee’s Education Commissioner is having a rough go.

From not having the required teaching credentials when she started the job to getting caught claiming a tuition waiver she didn’t qualify for to some seriously disastrous legislative hearings, Reynolds is struggling.

Fox 17 reports on the latest:

What signal does it send that the governor is willing to hire somebody who is completely unqualified, who would misrepresent something on a state application and seek a tuition waiver from a state university just to get on the job training. This is all completely humiliating,” Representative Clemmons emphasized.


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Lakeland Makes Money Moves

District boosts teacher pay, new starting pay is $50,000/year

The Lakeland School District is investing in teachers.

This week, the district announced plans to move starting teacher pay to $50,000 and adjust the pay scale for all teachers accordingly.

Effectively, the plan moves every teacher up four spots on the pay scale.

This will mean raises of between $3000-$5000 for all teachers in the system.

Teacher pay matters. Investing in the people who have direct contact with students is a direct investment in student success.

When teachers get paid more, students do better. In one study, a 10% increase in teacher pay was estimated to produce a 5 to 10% increase in student performance. Teacher pay also has long-term benefits for students. A 10% increase in per-pupil spending for each of the 12 years of education results in students completing more education, having 7% higher wages, and having a reduced rate of adult poverty. These benefits are even greater for families who are in poverty.

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They Don’t Trust Vouchers

Ed Trust speaks out against Bill Lee’s voucher scheme

The Education Trust of Tennessee is out with a statement opposing Gov. Lee’s school voucher scheme.

While there are key differences between the voucher expansion bills sponsored by Rep. Lamberth and Senator Johnson respectively (HB1183/SB503), The Education Trust—Tennessee stands in opposition to both versions. Our concerns with universal vouchers include, but are not limited to, their negative fiscal impact on public schools, the lack of civil rights protections for students, the lack transparency and accountability on their effectiveness, and the well-documented negative impact of vouchers on student achievement.

They also sent a letter to Members of the General Assembly detailing their opposition.

Speaking of vouchers and their impact on student achievement:

Voucher studies of statewide programs in Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana all suggest that not only do vouchers not improve student achievement, they in fact cause student performance to decline.

Gov. Bill Lee promoting school privatization


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