Editorial Roundup: Tennessee


Kingsport Times News. August 12, 2022.

Editorial: A voucher program will save children from bad schools

Tennessee’s school voucher program is a bit of a mess when it kicks off. But after years of trying to protect bad schools and bad teachers in the state’s two largest districts, parents finally have an option and if school choice proves successful, as we’ve come to expect. , it will develop over time.

Why the disorganized start? Because the state has been barred from working on the program for years since it went into effect and officials have only had a few weeks to set up an application and vetting process.

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Earlier this year, Tennessee’s highest court sided with Governor Bill Lee’s administration when it ruled the 2019 bond law did not violate the state constitution. The case was sent to a lower court, where a three-judge panel formally lifted the injunction that had been in place since 2020.

You would think that local government and senior education officials would want the best for the children in their jurisdiction, but many have fought school vouchers every step of the way to protect their government’s monopoly. on education.

What began as a statewide effort was narrowed down to the two worst performing districts (Memphis and Nashville) and continued legal opposition took years to overcome. But Tennessee opened its program to parents in Memphis and Nashville just days before school started when the three-judge panel ended the injunction. Eligible families will be allowed to use up to approximately $8,100 in public tax dollars, known as education savings accounts, for private school tuition and other pre-approved expenses.

Many details of the program remain in question due to the tight deployment schedule. But despite the concerns raised by opposing attorneys, the judges denied them.

“The plaintiffs’ concerns about the rush of the process and the uncertain details of the ESA deployment … do not provide a basis for the court to bar the implementation of the program,” the judges ruled.

Proponents of the vouchers have been fighting to implement the law since the GOP-controlled legislature narrowly advanced the measure three years ago. Republicans repeatedly amended the proposal to ensure it applied only to Nashville and Shelby County, which quickly continued the program.

It’s a historic moment for Tennessee as it joins other states in offering taxpaying parents the option to pull their children out of failing schools. More recently, Arizona has implemented one of the most comprehensive school voucher systems in the country. Under this program, every parent in Arizona would be able to take public money and use it for their children’s private school tuition or other education costs.

Governor Bill Lee said, “School choice shouldn’t wait another day in Tennessee and after today’s decision, it won’t.”

Thanks to this, children will no longer be trapped in public schools that they lack. Well-run schools – like most in our region – need not worry.

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