At Stand for Children, our mission is to ensure that all students – especially those whose boundless potential is overlooked and under-tapped because of their skin color, zip code, first language, or disability – receive a high-quality, relevant education. We work tirelessly with parents and community members to level the playing field so that children of all backgrounds have the tools and preparation to succeed. As the bills for Governor Bill Lee’s Education Savings Account (SB 795/HB 939) make their way through senate and house committees, we feel compelled to point out that this voucher proposal does not serve our community’s shared goal of educational equity for all. We stand in full support of the detailed #NotOurChoice statement released from our partner, the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition.
The theory is that Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) – school voucher programs – would allow families with low incomes or children attending low performing schools to take taxpayer dollars and access high-quality private education services. Even for those who agree, the current proposal completely misses the mark on this goal. Not only would these ESAs allow middle income students already attending top-performing public schools to take public funds and transfer them to private institutions with selective enrollment, the voucher would only cover a small fraction of the actual costs for high-quality private schools
In addition, students could be denied admission based on a laundry list of criteria, families of students with disabilities would have to give up their rights to protections, and schools could be held to a lower standard than our public schools because voucher students would not be required to take the TNReady assessment (allowing alternative tests). Clearly, there are substantial issues with pursuing this direction without further reinforcing exclusionary and discriminatory educational practices that we are working so hard to eliminate. We believe that greater community investment in public schools is the better choice for ensuring that all children receive a high-quality education.
We believe that it’s important that all of Tennessee’s one million public school students, not just a select few, see increased opportunities for success in their educations. That’s why we stand with our partners in the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition in opposing the ESA proposal.