Parents, Teachers Disagree Over School Vouchers; Vote Delayed

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Nashville, Tenn. (Jen French)The argument over how to help struggling kids is still going on at the Tennessee House of Representatives. Wearing anti-voucher buttons, members of the Tennessee Education Association filled the balcony of the Tennessee House Chamber Monday.

Twenty two amendments for a limited school voucher bill compelled bill sponsor and Representative Bill Dun, R-Knoxville, to push the vote for later this week.

Jennifer Murphy represents the Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission. She said vouchers could potentially free children from failing schools.

"Parents should choose the school," Murphy said. "Your zip code shouldn't choose you."

Murphy said only students on free and reduced lunchwho are also enrolled in the bottom 5 percent of performing schoolswould even be eligible for the vouchers. The vouchers would be nearly $7,000.

Private schools, however, wouldn't be required to accept everyone.

"We actually have laws in the books that allow children failing schools to transfer," Lyn Hoyt said.

Lyn Hoyt has three children enrolled in Metro Nashville Public Schools and believes taking money away from public schools and giving it to a select few isn't fair.

"Vouchers will not serve all children," Hoyt said. "Lifting the funding out because you have fixed costs it will affect all children."

According to a fiscal note for HB1049, the shift of state and required local BEP funding is estimated to be $16.57 million for 2015-2016, $25.47 million for 2016/2017, and $34.82 million for 2017-2018. By 2018-2019, that amount is expected to exceed $69.63 million.

Meanwhile, single parents like Carra Powell have little faith in public schools. She works to pay for the tuition of her three children. Her 8-year-old daughter Sophia Powell attends a Catholic school.

"Because it worked for my family and it worked for my children," Powell said.

Powell drove more than three hours from Memphis to represent families who want a choice, but can't afford one.

"I ran across family after family after family looking for an alternative," Powell said.

The House of Representatives is expected to revisit the voucher bill Thursday.


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