Tennessee voucher bill seeks to block immigrant families

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee lawmakers have tweaked a sweeping voucher proposal to ensure schoolchildren living in the country illegally are prohibited from accessing the program.

The House Education Committee officially made the amendment Wednesday just days after an anti-immigration group came out against the original structure of the bill, arguing it would result in school vouchers for “illegal aliens.”

Under the latest version, families would have to provide a birth certificate, a driver’s license or some sort of government documentation for their children participating in the education savings account plan.

Education savings accounts are the latest offshoot of traditional school voucher programs after previous proposals stalled in the Republican-dominated legislature.

The bill is backed by Gov. Bill Lee and is expected to cost $125 million over five years.

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NASHVILLE (WDEF) – House Majority Leader William Lamberth applauded the bill’s passage.

He says the education savings account program (avoiding the “voucher” term) gives new chances to kids in areas where 3 or more schools are in the bottom 10%.

“Tennessee has led the nation with important K-12 education reforms over the last decade, which has improved our student outcomes. Because of strategic Republican-led investments in education, our students are the fastest improving in the entire nation across math, reading, and science, and last year, we achieved the best high school graduation rates ever — 89.1 percent.”

He says this bill is just one small part of a broader education reform plan.

“This is an important first step in the process of continuing our recent gains in education, and I look forward to working on the implementation of the entire plan so we can solidify our state’s future.”

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However, teacher organizations continue to oppose the bill.

J.C. Bowman of the Professional Educators of Tennessee issued this statement on the bill on Wednesday.

Professional Educators of Tennessee remain opposed to Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). We know litigation awaits on the constitutionality of the legislation, should it ultimately pass into law. However, it is an opportunity for us to reaffirm our commitment to public education. We believe that the historic accomplishments of public schools in Tennessee demonstrate the incredible job our educators are doing across the state. We acknowledge there are small pockets where success has not been as fully realized. That makes us even more determined to prove Tennessee public schools can meet any challenge and help prepare the necessary workforce to keep up with Tennessee’s growing economy. Professional Educators of Tennessee believes public education will continue to be the best choice for parents and students in our state.

 

Categories: Education, Regional News

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