Voucher Fight – Compass Article

Voucher Fight Looms


Follow the Money Map 4.29.19

I am still calling it a “draft,” but I don’t know where else I could stick anything!  The latest Money Map is here!

If the PDF versions below are too small, you might try the link to the full map I uploaded to xmind: http://www.xmind.net/m/BSp9

Money Map 4-29-29

House and Senate ESA Bill Comparison

The House and Senate ESA Bill Comparison is in three different formats, below. Google Chrome is recommended for the best viewing, but there should be a format that works for everyone. If not, please let me know in the comments.

House and Senate ESA Bill Comparison




ESA House Senate Comparison

About Those Voucher Amendments...

Oddly, all of the “improvements” that have been made to Tennessee House Bill 939, the Education Savings Account Voucher program, have reverted back to their original form in the version that is expected to be presented Wednesday, April 10th. Were those amendments not made in good faith? It certainly gives the appearance that votes were traded for amended language, and then traded again. This kind of shameful trickery of their own peers may be a new low for some of our legislators, but the complete lack of transparency is, unfortunately, exactly what we have become accustomed to. 


HB0939 Amend 007851 with Highlights

The TN ESA Voucher Bill, HB 939 is Still Terrible

The TN ESA Voucher Bill, HB 939 is Still Terrible.

An annotated version is below. What else do you see that we haven’t covered?


HB 939 with highlights and amendment HA0188

The Governor's Office Would LIE to the Public?

We are hearing increasing reports of bullying, harassment, and intimidation tactics being used by Tennessee legislators, to strong-arm YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES into voting the way THEY want them to vote, rather than for the interests of constituents. 

Now, we are also hearing that people who voted for Governor Bill Lee have called his office to ask questions about the current “Education Savings Account” school voucher legislation and that they have not gotten honest answers. Sweet ladies are contacting me to let me know that they called the governor’s office, and the bill “just” says this or doesn’t say that – and I have to show them the actual amendment and see their faces when they realize that their governor’s office has lied to them.

This should not be happening.

Students’ lives should not be impacted by this kind of behavior.

Unfortunately, some of our legislators see our students only as dollars that support their buddies’ businesses and as PAC interests that support their own campaigns.

Our students need YOU to stand up and tell YOUR legislators to stop using students as political pawns, take responsibility for public schools, and increase funding to public schools to bring us up from FOURTY-FIFTH! in the nation, rather than throwing money away on voucher and charter schemes to privatize, separate, and segregate YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

If you have called the governor’s office or your local legislator and they have told you not to worry about this little amendment, please read it for yourself. I’ve added some highlights and red notations to help you get through the wordy-wordiness.

If I missed noting anything concerning in the amendment, please let me know in the comment section at the bottom of this page.


House Bill 939, Amendment 006145

If your browser does not support reading this PDF, you can download it HERE.


Keep Public Funds in Public Education


Cover Your Eyes; Our Legislators' PAC Priorities Are Showing!

If you still think the constant attacks on Tennessee’s teachers are partisan attacks, you’ve got some catching up to do!

The school voucher plan has been deceptively re-named “Education Savings Account,” with the hope that it can be fast-tracked through the legislature before constituents notice they have been had. And this week, all the media is reporting that the charter authorizer bill has been “scaled back,” but they are missing the fact that it STILL takes away YOUR local voice. Check the language: It says charter applicants “may” go to a local BOE. It is NOT required!

Both of these bills are sewn up with one common thread: a thread made of money.

Big,  BIG,  money.

The chart below shows only 3 of the big money groups who have been funding destructive legislation nationwide, for years.

Please call your representatives to let them know that you expect them to work for YOU, the VOTER –
not some BIG-MONEY schemer with an international agenda!

If your browser does’t support the PDF, you can find it right smack here!


What is “The American Federation for Children”?

“The American Federation for Children (AFC) is a conservative 501(c)(4) dark money group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues.”

“The group was organized and is funded by the billionaire DeVos family…”

“Former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, who was charged with multiple crimes stemming from abuse of his office,” is AFC’s Senior Advisor to its Government Affairs Team.

What is “Students First”?

StudentsFirst works for the adoption of charter schools and school “accountability” programs (school report cards) and educator evaluations based on student achievement (TVAAS).

Founded by Michelle Rhee, to “lay out a legislative agenda with the kinds of laws that states and local jurisdictions should adopt so that real reform can take place.”

StudentsFirst supports “rights of parents to organize and demand the transformation of chronically failing schools,”defined by student performance on standardized testing

“…the idea has been propagated by two controversial right-wing organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heartland Institute.”

Also called “Parent Tricker” laws, because they coerce parents into radical and unproven actions that often destroy neighborhood schools, these laws are backed by groups pushing for privatization of public schools.

Bill Cosby is on the Board of Directors.

What is “Stand for Children”

Major funders: the Walton Family, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, and several Chicago billionaires.

Diane Ravitch criticizes the group for seeking to impose standardized testing on public schools. (Ravitch, Diane,June 14, 2012), “Stand for Children Does Not Stand for Public Education”, dianeravitch.net)

From former “Stand” volunteers: “But in 2009, while we struggled to give voice to the needs of our schools, Stand’s staff was turning away from our concerns, announcing that it expected its members to forgo community advocacy in favor of a new, special agenda. This agenda, emerging seemingly out of nowhere, touted more charter schools, more testing, and punishing teachers and schools for low student scores.” (https://www.citizensforpublicschools.org/editions-of-the-backpack/spring-2012-backpack/an-open-letter-from-former-stand-for-children-activists-about-ballot-measure/)

A Voucher by Any Other Name

In November, 2018, 92% of Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) delegates voted for a resolution urging lawmakers to oppose “any legislation or other similar effort to create a voucher program that would divert money intended for public education to private schools or organizations.” TSBA membership includes 141 Tennessee school boards, whose members are elected by their districts to manage and control all public schools.

While our elected school boards have repeatedly and overwhelmingly voted to oppose vouchers and similar schemes in Tennessee for nearly a decade, state legislators have ignored their pleas and continued working in the interests of private corporations, rather than public education. This legislative session (January 2019 – May 2020), we expect voucher bills to continue to be pushed by those legislators whose campaign accounts are more important than their youngest and most vulnerable community members.

This time around, we expect to see increasingly ‘creative’ names for these bills, to mislead the public regarding the true nature of these bills. This kind of semantic trickery is should not be tolerated.

Please contact your Tennessee House and Senate representatives and governor-elect, to let them know that you oppose any plan to divert money from our public schools, regardless of what they call it. Please encourage them to do away with the slick sales pitches and listen to their local boards of education, and to fully support our public schools.

Tennessee House:    http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/members/

Tennessee Senate:   http://www.capitol.tn.gov/senate/members/

Governor-Elect Bill Lee’s transition page:   http://www.transition.billlee.com

School Voucher Issue Brief (TSBA)

Please continue contacting your representatives in the Tennessee House and Senate to let them know that you oppose school vouchers.

Public funds should remain in public control, rather than being pushed out to private corporations.

Public funds are meant to be used for the public good.

There are many choices available to people. Taking funds away from public schools should not be one of them.


The Tennessee School Boards Association has a short “Issue Brief” that explains what school vouchers are, how they are used, and arguments that are often misused to support school vouchers. Parts of that brief are below:

Issue Brief – School Vouchers


A school voucher is a publicly funded credit or certificate whereby a student may be enrolled in a private school and apply the credit to tuition. Education savings accounts (ESA), which are similar to a voucher program, are used to provide financial support to qualifying parents who want to send their children to private school. Recipients can also choose not to use the funds for tuition at all, instead using them to pay for a number of products and services related to educating their children. Ultimately, the idea is to create a competitive marketplace where parents and students have a choice outside of the public-school system.

Perhaps no other myth is more misleading as the one claiming these programs empower parents to make meaningful choices about their children’s schooling. Private schools are the entities that truly get to choose. Private schools admit the students they wish to accept – when, where and how. Traditional public schools must serve all students regardless of disability and special education status, family income, language proficiency, or academic standing.

School voucher proponents continuously reference higher education in their arguments. There is a key flaw in their argument, however, as higher education and K-12 education serve two very different purposes. Higher education institutions, such as colleges and universities, allow students to specialize in certain areas and gain an in depth understanding about specific topics, i.e. majors and minors. By contrast, the purpose behind K-12 education is to ensure every child within Tennessee has a basic understanding of numerous subjects and can go on to succeed in college or the workforce. This idea is so important, it is ingrained in our state constitution. The General Assembly believed the best way to ensure all students have access to a free public education is to create local boards of education and provide for local control. This method puts parents, students, businesses, and other members of the local community in charge of their children’s education.

Voucher proponents argue that Tennessee relies on a ZIP code to determine a child’s access to education. The truth is that in Tennessee, a locally elected board of education determines school zoning and which school a student will attend. This is the central concept of local control. Proponents of vouchers ignore the idea of local control in regard to how students are enrolled in public schools.

Over the years, proponents have indicated that there needs to be “school choice” for students. Tennessee school districts provide numerous public school choice options:

  • District Open Enrollment in every school district

  • The ability to transfer to another school district

  • Charter Schools

  • Magnet Schools

  • Extensive Early Post-Secondary Options

  • Virtual Schools

  • Academy Options

Another common claim regarding vouchers is they will result in savings for states and taxpayers because students will be attending a private school instead of public schools. In practice, this does not play out, as school vouchers require states to fund both public and private school systems. Even voucher plans that allow school districts to retain some funding when students depart using a voucher can ultimately cost districts and the state because of the fixed costs associated with educating children (classroom teachers, utilities, etc.) . . .  Simply because one or two students in a classroom leave to attend private schools does not mean that the classroom no longer needs a qualified teacher, facilities, utilities and all other resources required for an effective learning environment . . . 

School voucher programs have historically lacked accountability. Tennessee has spent years and over $500+ million in Federal Race to the Top funds creating the national gold standard in accountability for public education – vouchers for private schools abandon these efforts. Private schools and private school teachers are not held to the same high standards Tennessee requires of public schools and public school teachers. Public schools are governed by an elected board of education who must answer to the people, not private school administrators.

Ultimately, numerous studies have found no clear advantage in academic achievement for students attending private schools with vouchers. Not only do vouchers benefit a limited and select number of students, statistical studies and test scores have debunked this myth and shown that a student does not have greater academic success just because they attend a private school.

TSBA Position – OPPOSE

TSBA opposes any expansion of the special education voucher program as well as any new legislation that would divert money intended for public education to private schools.