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On the Agenda: Statewide School Privatization
Tomorrow could mark the beginning of the end of public schools in Tennessee
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Tomorrow (March 22, 2023) the House Education Administration Committee will take up two pieces of legislation that could radically change the education landscape in Tennessee.
One is HB433, which has already passed the Senate on a 19-6 vote.
This bill, as currently written, would expand the state’s school voucher program (known as Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs) to Chattanooga. Currently, the voucher scheme only applies to students in Memphis and Nashville.
It’s bad enough that some policymakers are ready to expand this privatization program to another Tennessee school district. However, what’s even more alarming is that Education Administration Committee Chair Mark White has filed an amendment to expand the program even further - this time into Knoxville.
It seems privatizers are moving rapidly to expand a voucher program sure to drain resources from public schools.
If lawmakers open the door to vouchers in Chattanooga and Knoxville this year, it’s only a matter of time before we have a statewide voucher program.
What’s also interesting about tomorrow is that in both House and Senate Education committees, legislation expanding the scope of charter schools will be debated.
As you might recall, I wrote about an amendment to the charter legislation that would:
Create a scheme for allowing charter schools that serve homeschooled students
Allow for the creation of residential/boarding schools that are charter schools
These new charters would also be able to bypass local school boards and apply directly to Bill Lee’s State Charter Commission for approval.
That would mean zero local input and zero local accountability - even though millions of local tax dollars would be spent supporting these charter schools.
The point of all of this:
Tomorrow could be a big day for privatizers and a very bad day for public schools in Tennessee.
In a single day, in a few hours, legislative committees could advance bills that would allow vouchers in our state’s four largest cities and also create a pathway for a massive expansion of unaccountable charter schools - approved by the state, paid for by local tax dollars.