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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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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Big Money, Small ROI

Bill Lee plans to invest TN tax dollars in a scheme with declining returns

Gov. Bill Lee’s signature policy initiative, school vouchers, is barreling toward final approval. The plan has a year one price tag of over $140 million and a second year projected cost approaching $300 million.

Tweet explaining the cost of vouchers

This seems fiscally problematic.

Especially given the reality that vouchers have rarely shown academic improvement and in some cases, have actually caused academic declines.

In fact, in Tennessee’s own school voucher pilot program, the results suggest vouchers are far from improving academic outcomes.

Students enrolled that were tested scored lower than their public school peers in the same county and below the statewide average.

Back in 2017, I noted:

Kevin Carey writes in the New York Times:

The first results came in late 2015. Researchers examined an Indiana voucher program that had quickly grown to serve tens of thousands of students under Mike Pence, then the state’s governor. “In mathematics,” they found, “voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement.” They also saw no improvement in reading.

The next results came a few months later, in February, when researchers published a major study of Louisiana’s voucher program. Students in the program were predominantly black and from low-income families, and they came from public schools that had received poor ratings from the state department of education, based on test scores. For private schools receiving more applicants than they could enroll, the law required that they admit students via lottery, which allowed the researchers to compare lottery winners with those who stayed in public school.

They found large negative results in both reading and math. Public elementary school students who started at the 50th percentile in math and then used a voucher to transfer to a private school dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year. Results were somewhat better in the second year, but were still well below the starting point.

In June, a third voucher study was released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank and proponent of school choice. The study, which was financed by the pro-voucher Walton Family Foundation, focused on a large voucher program in Ohio. “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools,” the researchers found. Once again, results were worse in math.

Bill Lee has spent his time and energy as governor finding a way to funnel public dollars to private schools and it is clearly not in service of improving outcomes for kids.


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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:

bitcoins and u s dollar bills
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