One day before Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher proposal is up for a key vote, the Shelby County Schools board resolved to oppose that effort to use public money for private schools and services.
“Many proponents argue that voucher programs increase options, and yet, five decades later these programs still remain controversial, unproven, and unpopular,” according to the unanimous resolution, which cited research that, at best, has been mixed on student achievement.
The governor’s plan to roll out education savings accounts, a form of vouchers, is slated to go Wednesday before a key committee in the Tennessee legislature. Lee and other supporters of the bill say state dollars open up more educational options for families who otherwise could not afford them.
School board members in Shelby County have consistently opposed using state funds for private school tuition, and the latest proposal, which expands eligible expenses to tutoring and online courses, is no different, they said.
“Rather than providing equal access to high-quality education the proposed voucher program will essentially divert funding from school districts and individual schools with high rates of poverty that are already under-resourced,” the resolution stated.
It also cited Tennessee’s per-pupil funding, which is well below the national average. Lee has proposed allocating matching dollars to offset any losses school districts incur during the first three years of the program. He has not disclosed any plans to continue that aid past the 2023-24 school year.
“In my opinion, this will drain the public school system,” said board member Stephanie Love, who plans to be at the committee meeting in Nashville on Wednesday morning.