ALERT: We need your help!!!
Two bills are up for vote this week that comprise a clear and present danger to public education in Tennessee. These two bills would eviscerate local control of schools in Tennessee and hijack local taxpayer dollars to drain the coffers of school districts across the state.
First, HB 939/SB 795 would create a new form of vouchers in Tennessee called Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs have been described as “vouchers on steroids.” This proposed legislation is targeted not toward “children trapped in failing schools,” but toward wealthier families, with virtually no regulation or public accountability. Vouchers would be available in any district containing at least three schools in the bottom 10% of schools in the state, but vouchers would be made available to ALL students in that district, including those enrolled in high-performing schools and private schools. Families making up to around $100,000 per year would be eligible for the voucher, and private schools would not be required to accept the full voucher as payment in full. This means that more affluent families with children already enrolled in private schools could use the voucher to help offset their current payments for private school. It will also allow students to cross county lines with their vouchers, which could wreak havoc on many rural school districts. Local school districts will have to pay for the bulk of these vouchers. (For example, in Davidson County, the state would pay only about $3,600 toward the cost of the voucher, while Davidson County would be required to pay about $8,100 per voucher.) On top of this, the state would withhold a 6% management fee for the voucher program. The governor has claimed that a limited amount of funding will be available to school districts to help offset the cost of the vouchers for three years, but this money could be revoked at any time- and worse, vouchers will create ongoing recurring cost that school districts will be unable to cover for an indefinite period of time. Once the door to vouchers has been opened, it cannot be shut. Under this legislation, vouchers would become an entitlement for upper middle class private school parents and homeschool parents.
CHARTER SCHOOLS BILL:
Second, HB 940/SB 796 would remove local control of schools by creating a new government bureaucracy in the form of an appointed nine-member charter school authorizing commission, to be known as the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. The new Commission will be allowed to place charter schools all over the state without local approval, and local school districts will then be required to pay for the new unwanted schools. This would create uncovered fixed costs in school district budgets that would drain funding from local neighborhood schools. The Commission would likely be comprised of all pro-charter school appointees, including lobbyists for the charter industry and those already serving on charter school boards, which would create an obvious conflict of interest.
These two bills are being driven by out-of-state special interests seeking to profit from Tennessee’s most vulnerable children. You can help by contacting the legislators listed below who will vote on the bills to tell them that you support local control of schools and that you would like to see investment in our existing schools!
939 HB / SB 795 (VOUCHERS) will be heard in the House Education Curriculum, Testing, and Innovation Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 19th, at noon (House Hearing Room IV):
Debra Moody, Chair 615-741-3774 firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlie Baum 615-741-6849 email@example.com
John DeBerry, Jr. 615-741-2239 firstname.lastname@example.org
Vincent Dixie 615-741-1997 email@example.com
Bill Dunn 615-741-1721 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Leatherwood 615-741-7084 email@example.com
Mark White 615-741-4115 firstname.lastname@example.org
HB 940 / SB 796 (VOUCHERS) will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, March 20th, at 2:30 pm (Senate Hearing Room I):
Delores Gresham, Chair (901) 465-9433 email@example.com
Brian Kelsey, 1st Vice Chair (615) 741-3036 firstname.lastname@example.org
Raumesh Akbari, 2nd Vice Chair (615) 741-1767 email@example.com
Mike Bell (615) 741-1946 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rusty Crowe (615) 741-2468 email@example.com
Steven Dickerson (615) 741-6679 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ferrell Haile 615-741-1999 email@example.com
Joey Hensley 615-741-3100 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Lundberg (615) 741-5761 email@example.com