Local educators react following Tennessee Senate passing school voucher bill

Thursday afternoon, the Senate passed a version of Governor Bill Lee’s controversial Education Savings Account or ESA Voucher Plan.

The Senate version would send an estimated $7,300 yearly to eligible students in Davidson and Shelby counties to use to pay for private schooling.

But despite opposition from Tri-Cities educators, local senators voted in favor of the voucher program.

“Basically it’s just a foot in the door to expand it statewide,” said Joe Crabtree, a Teacher and President of the Johnson City Education Association.

The Superintendent of Kingsport City Schools says they would rather see that money go towards the needs of public education. 

“There’s lots of uses for those funds that would be very useful if they were made available to us locally,” said Jeff Morehouse, Superintendent of Kingsport City Schools. “It’s disappointing to hear that.”

One teacher at David Crockett High School took the day off and went to Nashville to hear the Senate vote in person.

“I grew up very poor and public education saved my life and I feel an extreme obligation to protect it,” said Jamie Freeman. “They sold out to special interest against the desire and demand of the constituent.”

Educators in the region say they feel like thier voices are not being heard. The Kingsport City Schools school board held a called meeting and passed a resolution opposing vouchers on Tuesday night. They sent that resolution to local lawmakers in hopes that they would vote no.

Both Senators Rusty Crowe and Jon Lundberg voted in favor of the bill. They say they voted because they wanted to improve the lives of children in Davidson and Shelby County.

“Well candidly we don’t have any failing schools in Northeast Tennessee period,” Sen. Jon Lundber said. “We really have solid schools, so I don’t think those folks should be concerned.”

“This is not a solution to fixing our failing schools, but it is a piece of this puzzle that will allow some of these children to move up and progress,” Sen. Rusty Crowe said.

The House and Senate will meet in what’s called a conference committee to resolve major differences in the legislation and the final version of the bill will face a another vote.

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