Category Archives: School Reform Policy


Way Back in 2012 When Some Parents Questioned Privatization

 TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence)  grew out of a smaller attempt at parent coalition building back in 2012 through a group named “Standing Together 4 Strong Community Schools.” Little did we know what that would mean in the future or that our blog posts would still have value today when questioning public education policy.  This TREE post is a quick copy/paste of that year’s blog writing. It is long. You might need to use the search function. It chronicles our fight against the charter authorizer, changes in charter laws that override local decisions today around charter school entry into districts and the year over year push to bring public school vouchers to Tennessee.

President Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, are proposing over $10 billion in cuts to the U.S. Department of Education, along with over $1 billion (so far) in new funding for charter schools & voucher programs. They do not want public education. We do and we are still fighting for great public education for ALL children.

MARCH Against the Devos bad policies THIS THURSDAY. Read more details on the Facebook invite as we assemble to ask DeVos to not “DeVostate Tennessee Schools” at Riverfront park 5pm.…

At the time of these posts we had no idea this legislative march on the dismantling of public education was being replicated all over the country and would continue today.  Want to know more about the history of these unproven voucher policies and for-profit schemes to take dollars from Tennessee schools? Maybe some of the bad policy results we warned about have come true?

Read on.


Betsy DeVos Is Coming to Nashville

We wanted to update you on several events coming up in Nashville in the next few weeks. We feel as parents and teachers and public school supporters we must respond and or participate. We hope you will join us at one or all of these events.
MNEA will be showing the film “Backpack Full of Cash” at the Vanderbilt Mayborn Building – Vanderbilt University, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37212 followed by a panel discussion with school board members Amy Frogge and Christiane Buggs as well as other panelists. This film, narrated by Matt Damon, explores the efforts underway to privatize K-12 public education.


THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30th, 5:00 pm
Betsy DeVos is coming to Nashville, and MNEA & TEA are hosting a RALLY at the Riverfront Park by the Music City Star Train Station. DeVos will be speaking at the National Summit on Education Reform held at the Omni Hotel.


 We will gather at the Riverfront for a rally. MNEA & TEA are arranging for speakers and performing artists. After the rally, look for a march from Riverfront to the Omni around 6:30 on public sidewalks. Check for further details as more groups get involved. Join parents, teachers and public school supporters as we assemble to ask DeVos to not “DeVostate Tennessee Schools”. Here is the Facebook Event Link.…
If your organization is interested in co-hosting this DeVos action email or
Interested in some anti-DeVos rally poster art? Click Here.



ALEC not Welcome Here! Rally Organized by the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle TN -at Cumberland River Park Thursday, December 7 at 4:30 PM – 7:30 PM

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding their annual Nation and States Policy conference in Nashville, TN, Dec. 6-8. ALEC’s corporate backers draft laws that hurt our communities, take money from our paychecks, defund our schools, criminalize our neighbors, dirty our environment, and intentionally weaken our democracy to keep their corporate clients wealthy. We will rally at Cumberland Park and march to the Omni Hotel, where the ALEC conference is being held. Please join us to send a strong message to our Legislators: we want a PEOPLE’s Agenda, not a Corporate Agenda!! Click for facebook event info.…


WHAT NEXT? We can rally and march for public education. But, what actions can we take NOW to make our public schools great and protect them and our children from DeVos takeover? Look for plans to gather, learn and take positive steps to understand how public education needs you to survive the attack and fleecing from privatization. Stay tuned. Sign up for TREE email alerts.…
You can also sign up for text messaging from Defend Public Ed TN to get immediate updates on actions. Text @defendp to the number 81010. You’ll receive a welcome text from the Remind texting service. If anyone has trouble with 81010, you can try texting @defendp to (941) 900-3867.

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.

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.