Support Public Education, Not Private School Vouchers

  • Friday, February 9, 2024

This week, Governor Bill Lee issued his State of the State Address, which included a promotion for his deeply unpopular Education Freedom Scholarship Act, a publicly-funded voucher program benefitting for-profit private schools. In response, parents and educators across Tennessee have joined Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment and Tennessee for All to hold events highlighting the State of our Schools and call on legislators to keep public funding in schools that support all students.

In late November Governor Bill Lee announced the Education Freedom Scholarship Act which would subsidize private school tuition at a rate of $7,075 per student. This is over $2,000 more than the average per-pupil funding Tennessee’s public schools receive. While Governor Lee has ramped up focus on “teaching to the test” and unrealistic accountability measures for public school students and teachers, his EFSA proposal would require no such accountability measures for private school voucher recipients. Furthermore, students with disabilities only benefit from the voucher program if they give up their protected rights.

By the second year of the program, it’s estimated that vouchers will be available to over 110,000 students who are already enrolled in private schools with a taxpayer price tag of over $790 million, plus administrative costs. Money spent to subsidize private school tuition would be money unavailable to fund our local public schools. Every day Tennesseans would be on the hook to make up the gap in the form of increased local taxes.

"The best way to make sure that every child in Tennessee has the opportunity to go to a great school is to make sure that the school in their neighborhood has everything it needs to serve, inspire and educate its students. I’ve had three kids come up through our local public Title 1 school- all have thrived because that school has an outstanding principal and a great culture that makes good teachers want to stick around. Every kid in our low-income neighborhood gets to benefit from that school. We need to spend our energy and our tax dollars making public school better, not on voucher schemes that have been proven ineffective and that divert tax money to support private schools that can operate without any accountability and that can pick and choose what kind of students and families they’d like to serve." -Sarah Marquez Berestecky, CALEB Vice-Chair and local parent

As Tennesseans from Maryville to Memphis, we believe that all students deserve access to high quality public education and that we must fund our local schools accordingly. If you wish to get
involved and work with us to make TN fully invested in our children, schools and communities, you can plug in by registering for the next Public School Strong Orientation Feb. 12, 7:15-8:30 p.m.

Eric Atkins, Co-Chair Unity Group Of Chattanooga
Kaitlin Blanchard, Chattanooga DSA Treasurer
Rev. April Berends and Rev. Zachary Settle, Grace Episcopal Church
Rick Bowers, Executive Director of Green|Spaces
Donna Palmer, President of First Centenary United Women in Faith
Michael Gilliland, Organizing Director of Chattanoogans in Action for Love,
Equality and Benevolence

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