ACLU-TN Statement on School Voucher Bill
NASHVILLE – Today the conference committee appointed to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of Governor Lee’s school voucher proposal released its joint report. The House voted in favor of the proposed amendment 51-46.
As amended by the conference committee, this bill would create education savings accounts for students zoned to attend school in a district with 10 or more schools identified as priority schools in 2015 and 2018, and with 10 or more schools among the bottom 10 percent. Participating students must be part of a household with an income less than twice the income threshold for free lunch eligibility. The bill allows for exclusion of students from undocumented families.
The proposed amendment is expected to be voted on in the Senate later today.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, issued the following statement in response:
“The conference committee’s proposed amendment to this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, poised to undermine educational equity by creating a costly government spending program that takes desperately needed resources away from the public school system, which serves everyone, and channels them to private voucher schools.
This bill intentionally and explicitly excludes students from undocumented families, when federal laws prohibit discriminating against undocumented students in public education. In addition, private voucher schools are not required to adequately serve students with disabilities or low-income students.
This costly bill also violates the fundamental principle of religious freedom by funding religious education with taxpayer funds.
We need to improve our public schools for all children, in rural and urban districts alike. By taking resources away from public schools and discriminating against certain families, legislators are sending a clear message that they are giving up on public schools and turning their backs on some of Tennessee’s most vulnerable children.
We urge members of the Senate to vote against school vouchers and we ask Governor Lee to reconsider his support for vouchers and instead work to ensure that all Tennessee children can attend high quality, well-resourced public schools.”
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