The Expanding Universe of Vouchers


TREE would like to thank everyone who has used their voice to stop voucher legislation from being debated and voted on in Full House. Thank you to our lawmakers who clearly see that HB 1049 has broader implications beyond the initial 5000 it claims to help.

As you know, studies from states with long-standing voucher programs show no students will be helped with this legislation. While the bill has been tabled in the House, it is not dead. We may need quick action by you, in the weeks to come, to let your elected officials know this is still an important issue to parents, teachers, students, and public school supporters. ANY voucher is a bad voucher.

Meanwhile, the launch of the special education voucher law passed last year is now delayed until 2017 because it’s tied up in rules and regulations. Yet lawmakers are ALREADY trying to expand it with a bill that will allow children, never before enrolled in public school, to take a voucher. Feel free to contact your lawmakers about this bill.

SB 1735 *Gresham (HB 1568 by *Moody) Education – As introduced, allows a student attending a Tennessee school for the first time rather than attending a Tennessee public school for the first time to be eligible for an individualized education account, if the student also meets other requirements; allows the department of education to remit funds to individualized education accounts at least quarterly rather than quarterly. – Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 10, Part 14.

Voucher supporters, along with money from outside interests, will stop at nothing to expand voucher programs in Tennessee, effectively creating a privatized black hole for taxpayer dollars. Tennessee ranks 47th in funding for public education, leaving schools to tread water while legislators look for ways to fund private schools.

Thank you again TREE supporters. It takes all of you to help our General Assembly understand that we believe our public schools need their full support. Be sure to thank your lawmakers for supporting public education in your community by voting for ALL kids, not just those who can choose. Please stay tuned to our posts for needed action if the HB 1049 is brought back up for a vote on the House floor.

More Voucher reading:
MN Voucher School Leader Indicted for Stealing…

Frank Cagle: Beware the money behind vouchers

Momma Bears: Vouchers Stuck on a Desk

Cottage Industry of Fraud – FL

 Image credit: Pinterest page.

Vouchers expand

Private School Vouchers Are Not the Answer, TAKE ACTION

House Bill 1049 Advances to Full House where it will be voted on as early as Monday February 8.

It is time to act and help us defeat vouchers. TREE would like you to call and email your House Representative, thank them for supporting public education and educate them on the destructive nature of this legislation. The bill could be heard on the House floor as early as MONDAY February 8.

Legislators say they are not hearing from parents & public school supporters. So we need your voice and we need it to be the loudest it has ever been. A phone call is the priority action. You may even hear directly from a TREE member encouraging you to personally call your representative.

We have made it easy with our take action button.

PRIORITY #1: CALL THEM OR EMAIL and mention the following:

  • Thank them for making public education a priority in Tennessee. And encourage them to continue that focus by voting no on private school vouchers. You want your public schools protected and strengthened.
  • The bill is aimed at a small group of kids in the bottom 5% of schools but once established, TN will expand the program just like every other state that has a voucher program. This bill is already focused on expanding with a clause that allows unused vouchers to go to children outside of the most needy and at risk. You do not want your county’s public school funding to be affected in the future.
  • Tell them you want solutions such as improved teacher to student ratio, Community Schools and full funding for public education which improve outcomes for ALL kids, not just a handful.
  • Numerous voucher studies show they do not improve academic outcomes. Fraud, no accountability, rising taxes to keep the program in place and fewer resources for public education is the outcome that has consistently been shown in other states and that is wrong for TN.
  • Vouchers do not empower the student with choice but rather the private school who picks and chooses who THEY want,
  • It is unfair that private schools would not have to use the rigors TNReady tests like public school do to show our tax dollars are educating children. Other tests will show pointless comparison.
  • Ask them to vote no to private school vouchers. Tell them your name and address and if you are a public school parent, let them know.


Feel free to use any of our solid research and information that shows Tennessee is proposing a program that is just another step in privatizing government services and the abandoning of our constitution calling for our state to “provide free public education, including maintenance, support and eligibility standards.”

Your favorite high-quality private schools indicated, in a Vanderbilt survey, that they will not be taking vouchers. (link to survey info) There are two main reasons. First, they do not want the potential of government intrusion into their testing and curriculum. Second, the proposed voucher amount is not enough to cover the cost of private school tuition. The gap would have to be covered by raising tuition on everyone else. In Nashville, the voucher amount is a mere 20% of average tuition rates.

Remember that the “only for the poor” angle is just a short-term ruse. As we’ve seen in Florida and several other states, vouchers, just like charter schools, were expanded from “only for the poor” to families of higher income levels. Stratification and inequality are magnified in a voucher market for students without forms of social and economic capital. Vouchers have the potential to promote even more segregation and inequality than we see today. Civil rights and equality are not the true priorities for the out of state special interest groups that have poured millions into promoting a voucher program in TN to our legislators. This bill already has an expansion piece, offering vouchers to all students in a district with failing schools if the voucher allocation goes unused by the FRL population.

If your county has any schools that are in the bottom 10% you should consider your school system a target once children in Memphis and Nashville are shuffled with vouchers. There will always be a bottom 5%.

Minority Groups Are being Co-opted, poor kids in priorities schools will not be saved. From Julian Vasquez Heilig (Link to full article here.)

“In the case of vouchers, the long-term impact on civil rights is already known. A decade of peer-reviewed research in Chile has demonstrated that a voucher market has increased inequality for students living in poverty and closed public schools.

A voucher approach escalates inequality because capital rules the day. Test scores become negotiable capital in addition to hard currency. Students without this capital are denied access to attractive schools because there are other individuals in the market that are more desirable to schools.

School choice becomes exactly that in a voucher system — schools choose. So, if you are a proponent of school “choice” and interested in civil rights and equity —- vouchers will not help you realize your goals.”

Think vouchers will not expand to your county? The game plan is to expand. Last year the General Assembly passed the Individualized Education Act, a voucher bill for certain special education students where parents can receive a debit card to pay for education services if they withdraw their students from public school and waive protections for students with disabilities through the IDEA.  A year before the program is even set to go into effect and accept its first student, its sponsors have already introduced a bill to dramatically expand the program to children from any private school or even home school.  It is obvious that any parameters set on any voucher bill will quickly be undermined in an attempt to make the program as far-reaching as possible.  Don’t be fooled, any voucher bill will be expanded, which is why it must be opposed in any form. The proposed special ed expansion is here:

Why are we proposing to waste our tax dollars on a program with a failing track record? Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that ended up being barred from the state’s voucher system for failing to meet requirements. Vouchers would be investing in a failed experiment for our most at risk. Watch this video if you want to see how bad things got in Milwaukee.

Now is the time to do something! Public school parents, teachers and supporters want policy and laws that can impact ALL students. It’s time we demand it!  Instead of an expensive voucher program for a few students in urban schools here is what urban teachers and parents want from lawmakers: Fund proven strategies — such as smaller class sizes, student support services, and opportunities in the arts and recess time — all essentials to a quality education. Special needs children, English language learners (ELL) and children struggling below grade level require many additional hours of direct teacher attention. We need to fund time with our students to learn with the focus on teaching instead of testing. We also need to value our high achievers and give them the support and resources they need to shine.

Expand local Community Schools programs creating a support mechanism for our high risk students and their families. Create more social justice discipline supports changing suspension from a ticket to prison into an opportunity for a child to find social and academic direction.

We don’t want our schools to be left behind by our legislature. We want our tax dollars to serve all children, not just those who are chosen.

For the most ambitious here is a list of all TN House Members.


 Want to read more on the failing track record?

DO WE REALLY WANT A PROGRAM that is a Proven FAILURE and puts public school funding at risk? Vouchers have expanded in EVERY state they have been implemented in. To understand  more about what privatization lobbyists are trying to bring to TN – read these articles  below.

Vouchers expand

Image from article outlining 3 year expansion of voucher program in Wisconsin.