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commish spreadsheet

Voucher Pilots Are Seeds for Tax Hikes


Go Ahead. Click the spreadsheets first.

The “Ever-Expanding Universe of Vouchers” was a blog post… TREE did last year warning Tennessee about school voucher intentions. In that blog we stated, “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.” And where are we AGAIN this year? Fighting back multiple attempts to expand public school vouchers.

One bill will expand the TN IEP voucher. Only 38 out of 20k qualifying families bothered to sign up for the current version of this voucher. But, it is not about what families want. It is about expanding. This new version wants to qualify more disabilities to wave their IDEA rights and take the money even though we have no idea if the pilot works. This IEP expansion is modeled after Arizona. The Arizona Legislature created its ESA program in 2011 for special-needs students and has since expanded it to allow children from poor-performing schools, from military families, and others. Watch for this pattern in Tennessee. It is all intentional.


The other voucher bill (HB126) left progressing through committee is squarely and unfairly aimed at Memphis as a pilot. And Memphis parents, school boards, and elected officials have not been silent in their objection. Here is what we know about urban pilots. Every time a voucher starts as an urban pilot for a small number of students, it expands across the state. Flashback to charter schools as an urban pilot solution. And now several rural districts are seeing charter school intent letters. The playbook is followed in every state where privatized solutions proliferate. Vouchers will not stop at a pilot. Isn’t the point of a pilot to see if something works? The word pilot is a sham. We don’t even know if the IEP disability pilot is working and it is already expanding.


This Memphis pilot bill is stuck on whether it will even use the TNReady to see if the pilot works.  How is that fair? How do you show a voucher pilot improves educational outcomes for children if they don’t take TNReady?


Concerns are growing fast as the County Commissioners Association published a spreadsheet (shown above) that TREE obtained via email, sent to Association members outlining a rough idea, county by county illustrating “[H]ow a k-12 voucher program might impact county budgets, particularly if you compare revenue lost when a student transfers out of a school district and into a private school.… ) The chart shows the amount of county property tax needed to offset a 10-percent decrease in student population. [The Association] research has cross-checked many of the systems and, for the most part, it appears to be accurate. ” Of note: Carroll County sets its districts differently, so the formula used does not translate for that county.


The property tax increases to offset vouchers seen on the spreadsheet is not something any county commissioner wants to pass on to property owners. Lauderdale County loses the most with an 84.23 cent increase per year. Davidson is looking at a 30.36 cent  increase. The Tennessee Ed Report did a post that outlined skyrocketing taxes in Indiana and some potential scenarios for Tennessee.…

School vouchers become a parallel school system to fund. One Tennessee cannot afford.


Parents feel vouchers are an empty promise. Study after study show they do not work to increase achievement.… Without transportation and the ability to cover all the extras, a voucher is not really in reach of most public school families. The private schools most familiar won’t be taking vouchers. And in the end, voucher school choice is the choice of the private school to accept a student and to keep a student. It opens the door to discriminatory practices that leave Shelby County parents in doubt this is little more than a religious school subsidy with tax dollars that experiments on their children.


Our government needs to invest in neighborhood schools, invest in RTi2 small intervention classes, time with a teacher, community schools coordinators to coordinate wrap-around services and discipline supports. Fund opportunities to engage in learning. Not siphon off public dollars into private, unregulated hands. We must support Shelby County Schools, not public money for vouchers. Former Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey confirmed that he supported intentions to expand the program statewide when he recently spoke to a group of Shelby County Republicans in Bartlett. These pilots are nothing more than seeds for state voucher program growth and higher taxes.


Please CALL AND write the Finance Sub-Committee. Ask them to vote NO on school vouchers. Thank them for their service and especially thank them if they are a NO vote. The Memphis pilot voucher bill will be heard in finance subcommittee next. Please tell them not to fall for this scheme to destroy our public school system and raise our property taxes.


House Finance Subcommittee 2017:


Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland): 615/741-1350


Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis): 615/741-1898


Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett): 615/741-8201


Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley): 615/741-2134


Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville): 615/741-7482


Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain): 615/741-2746


Rep. Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville): 615/741-7480


Rep. Harold M. Love, Jr. (D-Nashville): 615/741-3831


Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga): 615/741-2548


Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads): 615/741-0750


Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin): 615/741-6808


Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville): 615/741-1875


More reading:………


Speak Up! Speak Out. No School Vouchers.


Supporters of public education, it’s time to speak up and urge your legislator to say NO to the voucher schemes currently making their way through the Tennessee legislature. Vouchers take money away from our already underfunded public schools, and they will mean cuts to services and programs provided to our public school students. Vouchers have been proven to NOT be a good investment, and do not raise student achievement. Tennessee cannot afford to chase after failed ideas! READ ABOUT THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS.

Please call your state representative to ask him or her to VOTE NO on ALL voucher legislation. If you aren’t sure who your legislator is, you can find out by entering your address here:

The site will give you the office phone number and email address to use to contact your legislators. Calling is easy! Just tell the staffer who answers that you are a constituent calling to ask your representative to VOTE NO on ALL voucher legislation being considered, and that you want your representative to stand up for public schools. It’s quick, painless, and lawmakers will listen when many of their constituents take the time to make this easy phone call. If you call after hours, you can leave a voice mail message. You don’t have to be a policy expert, your voice counts and a simple message is great!

For more information on the voucher legislation currently being considered by the legislature, check out these helpful links:

TREE Voucher Talk Points


110th Tennessee General Assembly And the DeVos Era

The 110th Tennessee General Assembly is underway in Nashville and, yes, Betsy DeVos is our new Federal Secretary of Education. Please, we need your voice now more than ever to stop the DeVos-style attacks on our public schools. Your amazing action needs to go local!

Make note if your representative is on an education committee. If you see your representative on this list or if they are sponsoring a bill, you will be a big help reaching out directly to your representative and explaining how bills can impact your children and/or your classroom.
Education Administration and Planning (**Sub-committee)
Harry Brooks, Chair
Eddie Smith, Vice-Chair **

Education Instruction and Programs
Harry Brooks
Roger Kane ** sub committee chair

Two big voucher proposals have already been filed this year, to divert public money away from public schools. The first is SB161/HB126 Kelsey/H.Brooks, which targets Shelby County Schools. The second is HB 336, essentially a rehash of the voucher legislation that was stalled last year. More specifics on these proposals will be coming soon, but the bottom line remains the same – Voucher schemes reduce the funding for public schools that serve our most vulnerable children, are proven not to increase student achievement, and open the door to various types of scams and fraud. Vouchers have been stopped in Tennessee before, we can stop them again!

A new state accountability system, that assigns schools a letter grade from A through F, is planned next school year based on this year’s test scores. This type of over-simplistic rating system only reinforces a myopic obsession with test scores to fuel the “failing schools” narrative. Several school systems are already taking issue with this new law passed last year. Collierville Williamson County Ripley Knox County Schools

House Finance Chair Charles Sargent and Governor Haslam will each be putting forth legislation that aims to increase school funding. A close look at these proposals will be coming soon.

Our Anti-Voucher Day on the Hill went well this Tuesday. Thank you to those who stopped by and took the time to say no to draining public school funds through vouchers. Still want to help? Download our talking points and use them to write a letter, send an email or make a phone call. TREE VoucherTalkpoints2017

Take Action! Download.


Thank you Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA) and Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment (SOCM) for teaming up to host the screening of the movie “STANDARDIZED Lies, Money & Civil Rights: How Testing Is Ruining Education”. The movie ended with a panel discussion. Watch the trailer and find out more. We plan on partnering again for more documentary screenings on education reform. Stay tuned.

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS in 2017. They Need You Now More Than Ever. You make a difference when you speak out, share information and show you care about our public schools. Get ready to make a lot of phone calls and send a lot of letters and emails. Let’s support for our children. Thank you.


Reject Betsy DeVos’ nomination as secretary of education.

“How do I know Betsy DeVos is an awful pick for Secretary of Education? All my friends with kids in public school think so, all my friends with kids in private school think so and all my friends that home school their kids think so. Also, all my friends working in education, from elementary to higher ed agree. I think the only person in Tennessee who thinks she is qualified is Lamar Alexander.” – Coreen Havron, Private School Parent, and TREE supporter

Call Senator Alexander. Here are his local numbers
Knoxville: 865-545-4253
Memphis: 901-544-4224
Nashville: 615-736-5129
Tri-Cities: 423-325-6240
OR FAX him! 202-228-3398

Everyone knows that Besty DeVos is a dangerous and irresponsible choice for our national Secretary of Education. Our TREE parent is right. During Tuesday night’s hearings, Ms. DeVos was unwilling to answer even the most basic questions about education policy. Watch below as she struggles to answer a question about educating children with disabilities. And she refused to commit to demanding compliance with IDEA.


Our elected officials do not understand.  They need to hear from their constituents.

From the Tennessee Journal
“Alexander, chairman of the Senate’s education committee, which has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday, doesn’t need convincing. The senator, a former education secretary himself, predicted DeVos will be ‘swiftly confirmed.’”

Let’s Swiftly Respond!
Sen. Lamar Alexander  EMAIL

Sen. Bob Corker EMAIL

Betsy DeVos is uninformed, unqualified, and inexperienced – the WRONG choice for our children! Say No to DeVos!
Thank you for supporting and defending public education.


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.