State Senate passes opportunity scholarships bill
NASHVILLE – Today, the Tennessee Federation for Children, Beacon Center of Tennessee and StudentsFirst Tennessee applaud state lawmakers for passing the Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act with a bipartisan vote of 20-10. The Senate’s action brings Tennessee one step closer to empowering parents to make the best education decisions for their children. The Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act will create an opportunity scholarship program to allow children trapped in failing schools to use educational funds to attend any non-public school of their choice. The program could begin as soon as the 2014-2015 school year and would give up to 5,000 children the opportunity to attend a school of their parents’ choice in the first year. “Tennessee has strong state leadership when it comes to education reform, and we are grateful to Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell, and state Senators who supported the bill and for their perseverance to make high-quality educational options accessible to more families within the state,” said American Federation for Children board chairman, Betsy DeVos. “We are hopeful the Tennessee House will be equally supportive of providing this important educational option to families in need.” The bill will be heard in the House Finance, Ways and Means committee before moving on to the Calendar and Rules committee and then to the House floor. Along with state leaders, the Tennessee Federation for Children, Beacon Center of Tennessee and StudentsFirst Tennessee have worked in partnership to raise awareness across the state about the importance and power of educational choice, which creates hope and opportunity for children in low-income families. “This is a monumental day for children all across Tennessee,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “Parents have spoken loud and clear that they should not have to rely on a ZIP Code to determine the quality of their child’s education, and the Senate heard their calls and took action to give every parent and child a choice.” In recent months, more than 6,500 parents, community leaders and education reformers have joined together to lend their voices in support of an opportunity scholarship program through the grassroots organization School Choice NOW. In January, more than 1,200 supporters braved snowy conditions and travelled from all corners of the state to gather at War Memorial Auditorium in a public display of support for educational freedom. “Parents should be the top decision makers when it comes to their child’s education and future,” said StudentsFirst State Director Brent Easley. “With this legislation many students will have their academic needs met. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and State Senate have all acted in the best interests of kids. We look forward to the House acting on this soon.” The Tennessee Federation for Children (TFC) is the state affiliate of the American Federation for Children, the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization working in states across the country to help secure additional, high-quality educational options for families. 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.