Category Archives: Vouchers


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.




Your Voice Needed NOW to Stop Private School Vouchers


HB1049, the damaging private school voucher bill, is closer to passage than ever before. NOW is the time to act and ask our legislators to reject vouchers.

Studies show that vouchers do NOT produce better results for children. A voucher plan would mean tax dollars drained from our already underfunded public schools, requiring budget cuts to our local schools to pay for this gimmick. If this door is opened, anti-public school advocates will come back year after year to divert more and more public school dollars to this scam. We have seen it over and over in other states. Leaving the most at-risk in underfunded schools.

It is time to ask our elected officials to please commit to the hard work of representing public education as a public service. Now is not the time to abandon public schools by pushing education off to private school vouchers.

CALL the members of the House Finance Committee TODAY and tell them to vote NO on the voucher bill, HN1049! The committee will meet this Tuesday, January 26 at 3pm, so speak up NOW!

We are asking for personal emails and phone calls. You can copy and paste the committee members’ email address from the list below. Be sure to note in your email and mention in your phone call if you are a constituent of one of these legislators. Also be sure to include your mailing address.  Personal calls will be more effective.
Thank you for being a voice to strengthen public education in Tennessee.

(Dist 68, Montgomery Co)
(Dist 39, Franklin, Moore, Marion Co)
(Dist 34, Bradley Co)
(Dist 87, Shelby Co)
(Dist 82, Lauderdale,Crockett, Haywood Co)
(Dist 5, Greene Co)
(Dist 26, Hamilton Co)
(Dist 72, Henderson,Chester, Decatur, Perry Co)
(Dist 61, Williamson Co)
(Dist 95, Shelby Co)
(Dist 16, Knox Co)
(Dist 29, Hamilton Co)
(Dist 86, Shelby Co)
(Dist 16, Knox Co)
(Dist 54, Davidson Co)
(Dist 27, Hamilton Co)
(Dist 9, Hancock, Hawkins Co)
(Dist 7, Washington Co)
(Dist 57, Wilson Co)
(Dist 96, Shelby Co)
(Dist 88, Shelby Co)
(Dist 50, Davidson Co)

For more information about the bill’s passing through subcommittee please read links below.

Local Legislators Back School Vouchers, But critics emerge in Williamson

Hope to Advance Voucher Bill (by pulling a fast one)

And if you know your lawmaker is doing a great job and is not supporting vouchers, use this time to thank them for supporting public education!


Stop the IEP Voucher Bill

House Bill 138 passed out of Finance yesterday in a late evening session. It will be voted on by the full House as early as this Wednesday morning. Again, we need your help to defeat this legislation NOW.

This bill now targets some of our most vulnerable special education populations: autism, deaf-blindness, hearing impairments, intellectual disability (low IQ), orthopedic impairments, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairments.

The parent that accepts this voucher will be awarded state BEP money–minus the 4% that is held back by the state for administrative purposes–leaving them with around $6,000. The money will be allocated quarterly as reimbursement for education-related expenses. Parents accepting the voucher must waive their child’s rights to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. They will also be forced to give up any services and therapies provided for their child in public school.

Schools accepting this money are not required to provide an IEP, nor are they required to have therapists or educators trained in special education. Parents will have to seek independent therapy services, which cost about $100/hr, and an education environment (e.g., private school, tutoring, homeschool). Because $6600 is not sufficient to cover the costs of educating a child with these needs, parents must prioritize their spending and, unless they can supplement with their own money, their children will very likely not receive necessary services/therapies. In addition, rural parents may have to drive long distances to find qualified special education teachers and therapists.

HB 138 puts our most vulnerable children, who lack the ability to self advocate, in isolated settings and puts the burden on the parent to not only find expert help, but also advocate for their education without any laws or regulations supporting them. The state estimates that only 1-2% of eligible students will use these vouchers. We do not need a law that creates a program for 180-360 children that requires a dedicated TDOE staff to manage it. This bill is not about opportunities for children with disabilities–it is simply an opportunity for outside interests to sneak a voucher plan in TN.

Take a minute and contact the House members  as soon as possible this morning to tell them you are against putting our most vulnerable students at risk and ask them to vote NO on HB 138.  Thank you for your voices. You make a difference.


Your difference stopped HB 1049 – the main voucher bill. They did not have the votes in finance sub committee and it was put on notice for 2016.



Photo credit: getty images

Voucher Sharks Are Circling

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.

Photo credit: getty images

30 Seconds of your time can say NO to this legislation.

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.]

We need your help TODAY to speak up against this outrageous proposal. Take 30 seconds and CLICK HERE to tell legislators NOT to turn their backs on our students with special needs, and to say NO to opening the door to fraud and misuse of Tennessee education dollars on a monumental scale.