Gov. Lee talks education savings accounts before first bill hearing

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters on March 19, 2019, about his proposal to introduce an education savings account program in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee spoke to reporters at the Cordell Hull building just minutes before his bill seeking to introduce education savings accounts, or ESAs, in Tennessee. (UPDATE: The bill cleared the subcommittee on a voice vote.) Here’s a transcript of what Lee had to say:

Lee: Homeschooling parents are very encouraged by the ESA bill. As more folks understand my commitment to strengthening public schools and providing choice at the same time, I think it’s something that’s really going to help Tennessee. I’m really excited about it.

Q: Which homeschoolers will be eligible?

Lee: If a family is in the district that qualifies, and they are currently in a public school, then they would qualify for an ESA.

Q: Any concerns about possibility of fraud?

Lee: There’s a strong accountability component to this in that money can only be used for approved purchases and approved vendors, so that we can be certain that the money that goes with the child will go for educational expenses only.

Q: The bill doesn’t require attendance in failing school. One could attend a fairly good public school and still qualify. What’s the rationale?

Lee: The goal is for children who are in a district that have failing schools. So, it’s targeted at kids in failing schools. Most kids that are not in failing schools will stay in their public schools. Data has shown that. Our public schools across Tennessee are high quality public schools for the most part. That’s why we’re investing so heavily in them. That’s why I believe in public schools. And I think the children that are in failing schools should have an opportunity to have access. And this is what that is targeted at.

Q: Embattled Rep. David Byrd could be key to the fate of this bill. Will pressure be brought to bear to influence his vote?

Lee: I am so trusting that representatives and legislators will vote on what they think is best for Tennesseans. That’s what I’m asking them to do, is to consider these children that I’m hopeful will have a choice as a result of this besides the choice of a failing school. And I trust that’s going to happen.

8 Responses to Gov. Lee talks education savings accounts before first bill hearing

  • MarLE says:

    Addressing potential fraud:

    What happens when a person takes her 3 children out for homeschooling and spends very little on anything related to supplies. She carries the balance forward for 2 or 4 year college? And what if her “home schooling” has the same miserable results as the bad school she left? Having failed to educate them are they able to return Back to the public system? And will they repeat, at additional taxpayer expense, the grade level from which they emerged prior to the mother’s version of “home schooling”?

  • MarLE says:

    Addressing potential fraud:

    What happens when a person takes her 3 children out of a failing district to homeschool them but spends very little on anything related to supplies. She carries the balance forward being able to use it for 2 or 4 year college tuition? And what if her “home schooling” has the same miserable results as the bad school she left? Having failed to educate them are they able to return Back to the public system? And will they repeat, at additional taxpayer expense, the grade level they left prior to the mother’s version of “home schooling”?

  • Linda Caldwell says:

    This smells to me.

  • James White says:

    What is an approved vendor?

  • Michael Lottman says:

    All good questions and it appears the bill may sail through without any answers.

    • MarLE says:

      Rep Dunn is sponsoring the bill for the Governor. There is a 2-part , 20 minute in total interview on this Bill alone on Ralph Bristol’s Facebook page. yesterday was 1. today he posted part 2.

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  • Silence Dogood says:

    All good points, for sure. And when the state education system lets the parents down by passing their kids along from grade to grade with a sub standard education what is the parents option? Sue the school system? Put their kids back in a private school paid for by the state to catch them back up? And yes, lets roll back time and reclaim those lost years between the ages of 6 and 18. When they are 28 and finally getting a high school diploma that means something lets have a party. What you folks are missing is how upset parents are at the violence, liberal social agenda brainwashing, and lack of accountability at their union staffed public school system.

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