Voucher bill to be dialed back to apply to just Shelby and Davidson

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a Philips event in Nashville on April 2, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

After many twists and turns, Gov. Bill Lee’s expanded school voucher bill is headed for a floor vote in the House this week. And in the Senate, the bill is being dialed back to apply only to the counties encompassing Nashville and Memphis.

The Education Saving Account proposal started out as applying to any district in which three or more schools fell in the bottom 10%. That would have meant Shelby, Davidson, Knox, Hamilton, and Madison Counties. Several rural lawmakers were worried that the next listing of priority schools could plunge their home districts into the bottom 10% and thus open the floodgates of unwanted vouchers in their home areas, too.

Lee promised a “hold harmless” provision for districts where the ESA program would be made available by creating a fund outside the Basic Education Program formula to reimburse them for the state money that goes away when students leave to take ESAs. That provision was largely abandoned in the House to instead have much of that money flow toward rural districts with priority schools. The Senate appears less enamored by that approach.

The ESA’s themselves have created controversy by allowing parents to spend the $7,300 per year on educational items beyond tuition, including electronic equipment, uniforms, and college savings. Critics worry that that will open the program up to abuse.

Homeschooling was stripped out of the House bill, but remains in the Senate version. Both chambers’ bills would create call for a citizenship test despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring states to provide K-12 education to all students regardless of their immigration status.

The bill is scheduled for a House floor vote on Tuesday and for the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.

17 Responses to Voucher bill to be dialed back to apply to just Shelby and Davidson

  • Phil Lassiter says:

    They want a ‘victory’ at any cost. Doesn’t matter what it is

    • Lenny says:

      The Republicans’ sense of entitlment is so ironic. It’s my debit card, and I want it now!


    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Mustn’t be so negative Phil, even if it is Monday morning. What they want is a device to improve educational outcomes in this state and there is nothing like breaking up the entrenched government monopoly that gives such dismal results compared to the rest of the developed world. Establish vouchers and other educational reforms somewhere, and eventually the voters will demand they be established everywhere. That is exactly what the teacher’s unions, the school board and educational panjandrums fear.

  • MarLE says:

    When a state-wide monopoly has existed for over a century it has built a dependent cohort of employees whose angry voices rise up in opposition to any attempt to offer a capitalist choice. No surprise here.

    If there are 9,000 teachers/staff in Metro Nashville schools alone how many people get their financial life blood from continuing this monopoly Just As Is? Kind of explains the attack on any legislation that ruffles one hair on the head, doesn’t it?

    • Susan says:

      TSBA/TEA/TOSS = the educational establishment that has been overseeing our dismal public schools for decades and who they are the loudest and most powerful forces against any type of education reform. But since our brilliant legislature requires us to send all school board members for continuing indoctrination each year to these leftist organizations, or when we allow unions to use the state resources to collect the dollars used to fight the legislature, or when we allow these organizations to profit by selling access to our schools to vendors, what exactly do we expect?

  • Paul says:

    I neither work for the school system, nor have any children, so I don’t have a dog in this fight other than as a taxpayer. But, I’d observe this is not a “capitalist choice” on several fronts. First off, the state continues to use taxpayer money to determine outcomes in this case, which is definitely NOT private capitalism. The outcomes favored may be ones that conservatives like such as a smack down on the “leftist liberal school agenda” or whatever it’s called, but it’s only a facade of capitalism when the government hands “free money” over to parents or anyone else to let them spend it on uniforms, laptops, or whatever. Maybe the capitalist part of this should be that folks with kids pay a little extra tax to fund this conservative candy store and leave the rest of us out of it, since it’s a “trial” effort at this point.

    As far as “choice”, I suppose that offers up a “choice” to let the money be spent on these kinds of things, but from a school view, a lot of rural areas don’t offer any “choices” in terms of alternative schools, which is in theory the point of this exercise. And even in areas that have larger populations, it depends on choices existing, which are not of infinite capacity. To have a real choice, you have to actually have an option to exercise it, otherwise, there’s no choice at all.

    Finally, it removes money from public schools, but expects them to continue to provide quality education, as defined by the state of course (read: lots of tests), but on reduced funds. Which in the end ensures likely reduced quality of education, so conservatives can say “see, public schools don’t work, we need to create ‘choice’ for the citizens”. Rinse and repeat.

    Great choices in this debacle for sure, if your goal is to stick it to the schools and the unions which apparently is priority one for some folks, versus actually improving education.

  • Jim Horner says:

    no guts, no glory!

  • Jerry McDonough says:

    It would help if teachers were all competent and not waved through for an education degree because they could not graduate with any other type of degree and, of course, it would help a lot if non-functioning parents had their feet held to the fire for not encouraging and assisting their children in their educational pursuits.

    • MarLE says:

      The whole compensation model for teachers needs to be changed. Who gets incremental pay increases Always for having an advanced degree. I worked at one point for a college and upon getting my Masters (which I paid for 100%) there was No pay increase …nor was there one for any of my fellow department heads.

      Who gets pay increases for 25 straight years for doing the Exact Same job and without regard to merit? Most white collar employees are getting higher pay for taking on More Responsibility over a career.

      We have, for too long, held onto the misguided notion that a teacher with 25 yrs experience is So Much Better than one with 3 yrs experience and thus we over-emphasize Retention. You don’t need a Masters+30 to teach 4 grade social studies and you certainly don’t need to have done it for decades to be good at it.

  • James White says:

    It should be unconstitutional for them to pass bills that only apply to specific counties.

  • Michael Lottman says:

    One way or another, this bill is an obscenity.The “educational establishment” that some are now trashing had served this country well for two centuries despite being used as a punching bag by those with questionable aims and despite being starved for the funds it needs and deserves. The ESA bill must not be allowed to become law in an atmosphere of opportunism and profound ignorance.

  • MarLE says:

    The horse and buggy served us well even longer. Thank the Lord the horse breeders and buggy whip makers and Blacksmiths (like my grandfather) were not given, by the government, a monopoly over transportation!

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Now that’s a response that deserves a “wish I said that”! Well done MarLE!

    • Lenny says:

      Amen. I’m glad the government didn’t give CSX, Duke Energy, Comcast, Waste Management, or Microsoft monopolies, as well. Praise Benny Hinn!

      • MarLE says:

        good Lenny….now you see the problem!

      • MarLE says:

        And just btw…I don’t pay more for my choice of U-verse because the government MAKES me pay for Comcast as well. If I want to go off the grid, I don’t first have to pay Duke energy. And waste management does not pick up my Trash but thank God the Government doesn’t make me Pay waste management and THEN I choose to use their competitor.

        So…bad as those examples you gave are they are NOTING like the stranglehold and obligatory “first feeding” that goes on in the Gov school monopoly.

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