Republican-led school voucher bill dies in House subcommittee

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 6:01pm

A school voucher program for Nashville and the rest of  Tennessee’s largest cities died in the House Wednesday only a week after passing the Senate.

In the face of strong opposition from the Tennessee Education Association, the House Education Subcommittee voted to postpone voting this session as even some Republicans abandoned their party’s position on the bill.

The legislation would have made lower-income students eligible for what the GOP sponsors called “Equal Opportunity Scholarships” to attend the schools of their choice, including private religious schools. The bill applied to students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches in Nashville, Memphis, Shelby County, Chattanooga and Knoxville schools.

“The bill is designed to help children find the place where they can grow and bloom as best possible,” Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, told the subcommittee.

But Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, said he needs more time to think about whether to support vouchers.

“We’ve got a lot of reform going on right now and we’ve made a lot of changes,” he said, asking the subcommittee to study the idea this summer.

After the bill cleared the Senate last week, the TEA accused the majority party of trying to destroy public education by draining away tax money.

“The public ought to be outraged that 18 members of the state Senate voted for a blatant voucher bill which will drain much needed funds from public education to private and parochial schools,” said Jerry Winters, the TEA’s director of government relations.

But both Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell praised the bill.

“Children should not be forced to attend a failing school just because they live in a certain neighborhood,” Ramsey said. “Equal Opportunity Scholarships will allow all children to receive the quality education they deserve.”

The scholarships would have amounted to $5,400 in Nashville and Memphis, $4,600 in Chattanooga and $4,300 in Knoxville — half the money that state and local school systems spend on each child.

29 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 4/27/11 at 6:44

Thank Goodness, they have grown some sense.

By: Loner on 4/28/11 at 4:20

This is a temporary reprieve, the Tea Party Republicans will try again, to gut public education and fund faith-based education with taxpayer monies....they will be emboldened. The theocrats in the TN pulpits will condemn this as "backsliding", the opponents of taxpayer-financed, faith-based education will be targeted by the zealots.
You can't reason with those ideologues, you have to force them out of office.

By: Kosh III on 4/28/11 at 5:54

"“Children should not be forced to attend a failing school just because they live in a certain neighborhood,” Ramsey said."

I'd bet when the issue was busing, he sang the praises of that same neighborhood school. "Woe unto you....hypocrites!"

By: FCMullins on 4/28/11 at 7:02

Maybe the state shouldn't be paying tuition to any private school but instead
making it easier for a parent to move a child from a bad school to a better one.

By: Radix on 4/28/11 at 7:11

How sad. Rich kids go to private schools and poor kids go to failing schools. Way to go TEA and Liberals. Clearly it's not really about education.

By: bartsdad on 4/28/11 at 7:17

good...this is the dumbest waste of time I can think of besides the 'don't say gay' embarrassment. Work on improving the public school system that is funded by taxpayers' dollars...let the 'private' school fend for's the 'way of the market' after all, right?

By: Nitzche on 4/28/11 at 7:22

keep us in the public school cess pool, then send us on to tennessee state! Wow, thanks.....

By: etoft on 4/28/11 at 7:26

The article did not mention a KEY FACT. It says "The scholarships would have amounted to $5,400 in Nashville and Memphis, $4,600 in Chattanooga and $4,300 in Knoxville — half the money that state and local school systems spend on each child." What it does not say is that the other 1/2 of that money STAYS in the public school. That means that the Public School will have MORE MONEY to spend per student that stays there. Think about that for a bit. Now who is the bad guy here. The TEA is doing their job...protecting teachers jobs. This legislation is trying to build our schools AND our communities by making a private option available to lower income families. And if the private schools begin to grow, the good teachers will be in higher demand...and have better options as well. So the TEA is really just trying to save it's own job.

By: mg357 on 4/28/11 at 8:52

Radix; not all children who attend private schools have rich parents. It depends on the sacrifice made by the parents to extricate their children from the failing public system {82%} currently. The amounts listed to be paid wouldn't make a dent in private tuition. As another poster stated; the TEA is hotly opposed to anything that siphons money out of the public school system including charter and magnet schools which are both financed with tax dollars. Watch the stonewalling later on this year following the TCap tests. Think we'll hit 100% failure next

By: Radix on 4/28/11 at 9:13

MG Very good point, but I was kind of exaggerating to make a point that might appeal to liberal 'logic' on this issue. Nashville had a private school with very low tuition that specialized in smart but economically challenged kids that went out of business when the economy got tough. That school did twice as much with half the money. Now those kids are going back to failing schools. If they had vouchers, that school might have stayed open, and provided an alternative to the failing cesspool monopoly that is SOME of the public schools.

The TEA and some politicians are proving that they are interested in self-preservation and power. Not what is best for kids. Its really just another union trying to prevent competition, and therefore progress.

By: mg357 on 4/28/11 at 9:29

Radix; that brings to mind the charter in California run by Obama's friend Kevin Johnson. It seems that he was using the school funds for his own personal reasons and therefore the school failed. Did that jog your memory? I have twin grandsons who are attending CA here in Columbia which is an exemplary school. 3 of my other grandchildren attended this same school in the past and are all in college at present, MTSU, UT and the 3rd graduates next month from Wallace State in Alabama. Private schools are like a different continent with totally different concepts than public schools. We all are aware of the problems, but what is the answer; it certainly isn't money do you think?

By: RTungsten on 4/28/11 at 10:55

Wait...take the kids who don't like public school and put them into private schools? Then we'll have to make super-private schools who don't accept these vouchers so we can keep the economic seperation in tact....or, some schools will raise their tuition above and beyond so the vouchers won't amount to much.

I'm sure many parents would pay even more to keep the private schools free of the public school kids....I know I would.

By: mg357 on 4/28/11 at 11:09

Amen RT; this is the very scenario that occurred in Memphis where the MCS system showed students failing 4 out of 5 subjects. Think they'll get to keep the money Bill Gates threw in {$90 million}, I don't think so. Those funds are over a certain period of time and the rpogress of the schools are being closely monitored by the Gates Foundation. You must admit that 82% failure is a very strong indicator of the public school

By: mg357 on 4/28/11 at 11:10

Progress is what I meant.....sorry

By: Moonglow1 on 4/28/11 at 4:09

Moonglow1: finally some good news, and a welcome relief from the onslaught of republican tea - led madness.

My question to Ramsey regarding his quote below is: why not invest in communities by bringing well paid jobs to the people? Instead of spending time on wedge issues, you should strengthen public education, crime prevention, and jobs growth so that "certain" neighborhoods can prosper. According to your quote below you have given up on residents of "certain" neighborhoods. Perhaps you should stop reading the "talking points" sent to you by "certain" conservative think tanks and think for yourself.

“Children should not be forced to attend a failing school just because they live in a certain neighborhood,” Ramsey said. “Equal Opportunity Scholarships will allow all children to receive the quality education they deserve.”

By: MamaD on 4/28/11 at 5:31

It would really be great if "apples and apples" would be compared for once. Why are charter and private schools more successful? If they have students who are discipline problems out the door they go. So, where will do these children return to-public schools. The scenario that is being played out here is for public schools to become the dumping ground for students who are discipline problems. Public schools cannot discipline a child like charters and private schools can. One example is the Memphis Academy for Health Sciences. The principal has assembly each Friday, and he paddles students in front of the entire student body. When some parents complained, he responded by saying the they knew the disciplinary guidelines when they enrolled their son. Parents sign a contract saying that they will be ACTIVELY involved in their child's education. If they break the contract, out the door their child goes. Charter schools are free to make timely decisions about developing curricula and structure the school day. Before you condemn public schools, you need to get the facts in that charters and private schools do NOT have to "jump through the same hoops" that public schools do. Charters are freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to public schools. Research shows that about 6% of charter students do better on standardized tests, 13% do worse, and the other 81% basically "fall" within the same area. Get everyone on the same playing field before you bash public ed. I keep thinking that some parents will get together and file a class action law suit over disruptive students being allowed to negatively affect their child's right to an education, because the state and federal government "ties" the public schools "hands" in many, many ways. It is a fallacy that bad teachers cannot be gotten rid of. If a bad teacher is allowed to remain, then it is because the PRINCIPAL is too lazy to do his/her job.

By: mg357 on 4/28/11 at 7:15

MamaD; I think you probably meant private and magnet schools do better than public. Filing a class action would bring every group including the ACLU and the NAACP subversives to the forefront to protest a move to get troublemakers out of public education. Do they have alternative schools in Nashville for disruptive and unruly students? Some choose to blame the problems on the lack of parental involvement which surely can be detrimental. I will be interested to see the results of the TCAP scores when they're posted on the TDOE website because last years scores were certainly

By: Kosh III on 4/29/11 at 6:25

By: Nitzche on 4/28/11 at 8:22
keep us in the public school cess pool, then send us on to tennessee state! Wow, thanks.....

Racism is alive and well.
fyi, I'm white, got one of my degrees from TSU which was a much better education than the other "elite" college attended.

By: bartsdad on 4/29/11 at 6:55

If private schools are mooching off the public system...why are they even considered private any longer? The issue here is problems existing in the public schools...that is all...let the 'private' schools fend for and take care of themselves and their own. Address the public school issues with all the taxpower and ideas possible to bring our public schools to the highest level possible. If you want your kid to attend a private school...then get another job or cut back in another way in order to afford the private tuition, otherwise, put 100% of your energy and passion into making the public school work for your child's best interest.

By: Nitzche on 4/29/11 at 8:04

Kosh, well I am Black...and if I understand my political correctness handbook, you are not allowed to attack a black man, but you are using the exception rule by attacking a conservative black man.....also, I watch tv and read the paper, I am exempt from racism

By: Radix on 4/29/11 at 8:25

Proof that most of the time the 'race card' is played its not about race, its about political posturing - aka exploiting the race issue for personal gain. This is the REAL enemy of better race relations.

By: Radix on 4/29/11 at 8:28

By: bartsdad on 4/29/11 at 7:55
If private schools are mooching off the public system...why are they even considered private any longer?

They aren't mooching, they are taking some of the funds, but they are taking the child too, so the public schools' costs go down. Also, its not the schools' money its my money, taken from me (and you) by the government to give our kids a quality education. Except we are being ripped off, because they are not getting a quality education.

By: Kosh III on 4/29/11 at 8:39

So you're a black conservative. What? You pine for the good ol days of 1920?

And I can attack anyone I choose, I don't hew to any one goosestepping position that's been told to me by some idiot on tv, whether it's Beck or Maddow or Graham Norton......

By: mg357 on 4/29/11 at 10:24

Radix; think along these lines. If you are a property owner, 60% of your county taxes go toward education. Now; if your child is in private school, you are also coming out of pocket with that particular school's tuition fee, plus; you're paying for the child's meals and furnishing transportation to and from the campus. Private takes nothing from public but is a double whammy when you pay both for public and private education Essentially you are paying twice without benefit of the use of public

By: Nitzche on 4/29/11 at 4:00

Come on, Uncle Tom would be the better slur at me.....1920"s? Easy little man, 2011 is now upon us, and Jesse and Al no more speak for me, than you. Very comfortable in my skin, sounds like you are a little uncomfortable with that nice suburban life you had?

By: MamaD on 4/29/11 at 6:10

I should have clarified that the statistics are comparing charter schools , which are the percentages shown, to public schools. I do not live in Nashville, and the county that I live in does not have alternative schools, which are desperately needed in all counties. You know, where are the children's rights who come to school, behave, are respectful of others, who want to learn, but their learning is disrupted by the students who have behavior problems. I know of a teacher who has a child in her third grade class who will throw temper tantrums, lay down on the floor and kick the lockers, kick desks, scream and yell, etc. Does he have the right to stay in that class and deny the other students their educational rights?

By: mg357 on 4/29/11 at 6:41

MamaD; Is there a chance that this child is a special needs with a behavior disorder, or; does he/she need a good paddling to correct his attitude. When the special needs kids were admitted to mainstream class rooms this was a major mistake. They slow the rest of the class down and should be placed in a specialized environment. Then you have the ones who are there to eat and hang out with their thug friends with no desire to learn anything. We have an alternative here in Columbia for this type of heathen . Public schools on the whole are a disaster area. We also have isolation rooms in the elementary schools for children who become violent and have mental disorders with suicidal tendencies. Get my drift here, one size does not fit all and the ones who suffer are the kids who want to

By: cookeville on 4/30/11 at 7:37

First of all, the children aren't 'heathen'. They are children from families who are emotionally, mentally, or otherwise dysfunctional and most are very poor. It's also a generational problem. These families have been living this way likely since the turn of the 20th century. They are poor in money and poor in spirit. It is our duty as a society to lift them up instead of trying to keep them down. All the preachers do is tell them they're going to hell if they don't repent, and all the govt. does is give them more entitlements instead of training them to be productive. But there few of us who, if given enough money, wouldn't just play and have fun instead of working for a living, as we accuse them of doing. The voucher system, the magnet schools, the private schools are ways to keep the 'riffraff' from 'contaminating' our 'proper living' existence. The pols want them because it puts money into private pockets. The local, state, and national govts. are devoid of ideas of how to fix anything broken. We are at the mercy of incompetents from the mayor to the US president. But we do nothing because we too, are poor in spirit. If we really want to help those who need it, we will uplift our own lives so can show them how , and we will help them do it, if only one person at a time. If we aren't proactive now, we are going to be in big trouble in the not to distant future.

By: mg357 on 4/30/11 at 8:55

Cookeville; So; your theory is to throw more money into an already failing system by your own admission. As for my reference to heathens; oh yes, that describes them perfectly. Some are gang members who have put out contracts{murder} on other teens and some constantly cause trouble in the classrooms, which by definition affects the teacher's ability to help the ones who are there to learn. Many of these kids have no intention of ever conforming to a shall we say normal behavior pattern and are destined for the penal system following in the footsteps of their own families. Discipline is a foreign word here; they've never had any. They have other means in mind of making a living; i.e. selling drugs and crime. Money won't solve this, trust