Fiscal note estimates Shelby County to lose $18M in funding with voucher bill

A bill to set up a school voucher system would mean loss of about $18 million per year in state funding for schools in Shelby County, the only place that the measure would apply in a measure sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville.

The estimate is included in the fiscal note for HB126. The Commercial Appeal has comments from Kelsey:

Kelsey said Monday the funding loss for SCS would be proportional to the number of students the district would no longer have to educate. The bill also only diverts state money, and requires students using a voucher to be counted toward the enrollment of their local school district. That means the district still retains local funds for them.

“The beauty is they no longer have to educate the child, and yet they’re still getting paid some money,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey’s bill has support, including from co-sponsors Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville and Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis. But it’s not the only pending legislation aiming to create a voucher program. Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, has a broader bill competing in the House. 

SCS said in a statement the district is monitoring the legislation as it progresses but that it’s too early to determine its full fiscal impact.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson previously questioned whether such a bill would be constitutional because it targets only one area. Kelsey said previously he believes his program is constitutional because it’s a pilot program.

The district and school board have also been vocally opposed to any voucher bill.

3 Responses to Fiscal note estimates Shelby County to lose $18M in funding with voucher bill

  • Avatar
    Joe Levitt says:

    Your piece is not clear as to the effect of the bill as it says, ” and requires students using a voucher to be counted toward the enrollment of their local school district.” Doesn’ the bill reduce the money because voucher students would no longer be counted in enrollment?

    Levitt

    • Tom Humphrey
      Tom Humphrey says:

      The wording is perhaps unclear. The school system gets both state funding under the BEP formula and local funding from Shelby County taxes. As I understand it, the voucher bill in issue takes away the state money but lets a school keep its local share.

  • Avatar
    Jennie Young says:

    A voucher system needs to be resisted because it puts us on a perilous path toward undermining our public schools and with them our democracy, regardless of which public funds are used. There’s no other institution under legal obligation to teach all our children with the commitment and the capacity for accomplishing it. A voucher system requires the public to pay for schools which establish their own rules, are under minimal public scrutiny and transparency, don’t have to follow basic constitutional protections, provide special services, can expel or suspend students without legal due process, can ignore state open meeting requirements, can proselytize, and can discriminate. Conservatives were very smart to couch their arguments under the mantle of “choice”. But it’s just a word, and God help us if we allow its allure to cause us to awaken one day to find the “choice” we fell victim to was the choice to destroy the bedrock of our democracy. It’s a slippery slope wisely recognized and resisted.

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