Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga Advocacy Group Opposes Expansion of School Vouchers

Advocate Andy

Unity Group calls on General Assembly to reject extending state's voucher program to Chattanooga

Following Senate passage of legislation that would extend the state's education savings account (ESA) voucher program beyond Nashville and Memphis and into Chattanooga, a local advocacy organization known as The Unity Group is expressing opposition.

While the legislation, sponsored by Hamilton County Senator Todd Gardenhire, has received Senate approval, it still must pass the House of Representatives and then be signed by Gov. Bill Lee.

For its part, The Unity Group says there are still too many unanswered questions about the program.

Specifically, the group called out issues around accountability for funds spent and suggested that taxpayers would end up footing the bill for sub-par private education.

The potential for increased local tax burden combined with data the group says suggests students fail to benefit from voucher programs led the group to oppose expansion of ESAs into Chattanooga.

The group passed a resolution stating reasons for opposing the program's expansion and called on lawmakers to heed their warning.

Specific reasons for opposing voucher expansion include:

"Research shows that school vouchers have not been effective at improving student achievement or closing the achievement gap, with the most credible research finding little or no difference in voucher and public school students’ performance.

"Vouchers eliminate public accountability and transparency in a number of ways. These include, but are not limited to, channeling tax dollars into private schools that are not required to meet the state-approved academic standards, are not required to make budgets public, do not adhere to open meetings and records laws, do not elect local school board members, do not publicly report on student achievement, and do not face the public accountability requirements or anti-discrimination laws contained in federal and state laws, including special education."

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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