Opportunity scholarship proposal withdrawn
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Federation for Children, Beacon Center of Tennessee and StudentsFirst Tennessee all expressed disappointment after opposing politicians blocked a bill to empower parents with educational choice from a vote in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee. The Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act, supported by Gov. Bill Haslam, received bipartisan support in the House Education Committee, and last week passed the State Senate with bipartisan support. “The lack of leadership from a select few House members will now result in thousands of Tennessee children being denied the educational options they deserve and desperately need,” said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “We are grateful for Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell and the members of the Senate and House Education Committee from both parties for their commitment to enacting common sense education reforms that empower parents and offer life-changing options for students. Despite today’s disappointing news, we will continue to stand with, and fight for, the thousands of families in Tennessee who have been denied their fundamental right to choose the best educational environment for their children.” The bill sponsor withdrew the Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act due to the unwillingness of certain members to allow the bill to proceed to the House floor for a vote, placing the passage of this important educational option for low-income families on hold until next legislative session. Thousands of parents, community and civil rights leaders have joined together to add their voices in support of educational choice as part of the grassroots organization School Choice NOW. “While we are very disappointed, we have nothing but high praise for Gov. Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ramsey, Speaker Harwell, and all the many legislators who courageously stood up for Tennessee’s children,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. “Children lost to entrenched special interests today, but the rights of families to choose a quality education will not take a back seat to anyone. We remain committed to bringing a robust school choice program to Tennessee, and despite today’s setback, we will continue to press forward engaging families and lawmakers in the process.” “We are very disappointed that for another year Tennessee’s families will be denied opportunity scholarships,” said StudentsFirst State Director Brent Easley. “While the teacher’s union proclaims a ‘big win,’ we know this is a loss for the kids trapped in low-performing schools. We appreciate Governor Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ramsey, Speaker Harwell and the legislative leaders who stood up in support of student-centered policies, and we look forward to renewing our efforts next year.” After the bill was withdrawn from the committee agenda this morning, House bill sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) stated, “I think today the children lost and the system won.” The Tennessee Federation for Children (TFC) is the state affiliate of the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice. TFC has been formed to educate parents and families about the importance of educational choice and advocate for passage of a high-quality, statewide educational choice bill. The Beacon Center of Tennessee is the state’s leading free market public policy organization. The Center’s mission is to change lives by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. StudentsFirst Tennessee – Since 2010, StudentsFirst Tennessee has worked tirelessly to ensure educators are valued for the critical role they play in kids’ lives, families have high-quality school choices and a real say in their children’s education, and our tax dollars are spent wisely on what works for kids. Now, a bipartisan movement of more than 35,000 members, StudentsFirst Tennessee looks to continue our work with state leaders to advance the common sense policies that have made Tennessee an example of the power of education reform. For more information on our legislative and outreach efforts, please visit http://www.studentsfirst.org/state/tennessee.