Community members oppose school vouchers at local rally

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The Tennessee Education Association encouraged all teachers to organize rallies in opposition to Governor Bill Lee’s plan to create education savings accounts, money for students in under-performing districts to go to different schools.

Teachers, parents, school board members and supporters of public education that attended Monday’s rally in Washington County Tennessee say they are worried that taxpayer money will end up going to private schools.

“Public education is where all of our children get the opportunity to learn and grow and we need to keep those dollars in our school systems,” said Annette Buchanan, Washington County Tennessee School Board Member.

Governor Bill Lee thinks something needs to be done to help students in the state’s lowest ranked schools. The list of the states lowest ranked schools include Metro Nashville Public Schools, Knox, Hamilton and Shelby County Schools. Lee’s plan is set aside $75 million over the next three years, for what he calls an “Education Savings Account” or ESA program–grants to students in low-performing districts to schools of their choosing.

Teachers at the rally say they worry the program will take money away from underfunded rural districts.

“Vouchers have been fought against by the teachers association by constituents by teachers for the last 6 or 7 years,” said Jamie Freeman, Teacher at Washington County Schools.

“If we could invest this money in public education and get our kids the textbooks the laptops, the technology that they need to succeed, than that’s where the money needs to be placed,” said Kerrie Aistrop, a parent. “Not in private schools.”

Last Wednesday, Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough said he would work to protect his district from funding cuts and amended the bill to include funding for rural districts like those in Northeast Tennessee.

“What will happen is that will stair step down and become funding for grants for failing schools that are not in the big four counties,” Rep. Hill said.

The Tennessee House of Representatives is set to vote on the bill tomorrow morning in Nashville.

Another vote is planned in the  senate finance committee.

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