On Tuesday, the House Education Instruction & Programs committee will consider an additional voucher bill that is broader in scope and more devoid of accountability than any voucher proposal Tennessee has seen before.
House Bill 138 has NO limit on number of vouchers available. NO requirements at all for participating education providers, and NO testing or reporting requirements. An eligible student under this bill is any Tennessee child with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) providing for special education services. Currently, 120,000 students in Tennessee meet that standard. Make no mistake, this vision – over a hundred thousand available vouchers with no meaningful standards or oversight – is not an outlier. It’s the ultimate goal of voucher advocates, and it’s where they hope any voucher law will ultimately take Tennessee.
This bill states that a parent of any child with an IEP, in exchange for a promise to not enroll the child in public school, may have BEP funds deposited into a bank account the parent controls. The parent is to use the funds to educate the child in some fashion, whether by enrolling in private school, purchasing an online learning program, hiring a tutor, or some other means. This bill specifically states that there will be NO regulations or standards applied to a participating educational provider. Private schools accepting this voucher are not required to be accredited or have any operating history. A provider need not actually provide the services called for in the child’s IEP. The bill calls for NO testing or reporting of educational results. ZERO accountability. And this lack of accountability runs counter to all of the laws that have been passed in recent years requiring testing and accountability for our public schools. Why would our legislators allow our tax money to be spent without any accountability, after spending years trying to establish accountability in our schools?
It’s staggering to think of the abuse, waste, and inadequate education that this bill would produce if it becomes law. The proposal is modeled after a similar law in Florida, which has produced rampant fraud and educational malpractice. “It’s like a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash: Dole out millions to anybody calling himself an educator. Don’t regulate curriculum or even visit campuses to see where the money is going.” [*Disclaimer – this article contains graphic and offensive language and behavior used by the private schools that received taxpayer funds under Florida’s program.]