The case against Gov. Lee’s vouchers-for-all expansion

Published 10:15 am Friday, March 8, 2024

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To the Editor:

  1. A) There’s no academic benefit. Assessments of students in voucher programs, nationally and in Tennessee, reveal no academic achievement gain and far too often show worse performance, compared to peers in public-school.
  2. B) Tennessee’s first year of vouchers-for-all, and in following years, will cost at least three-quarters of a billion dollars above cost for public schools, with payouts of $7,075 for each of the 105,420 students already in private schools and subsidies for 37,000+ currently home schooled. Similar to Arizona’s disastrous first year experience with vouchers for all. 
  3. C) Vouchers inspire a variety of “pop-up schools,“ some for sheer profiteering, others for propagandizing and indoctrination. Lee’s proposal includes no accountability standards, with content and practice self-designed. 
  4. D) Quality private-school tuition in Tennessee now averages $10,844 a year, so most families will still be priced out. The critics are right. Vouchers-for-all is a wealth-transfer scheme, undermining our foundational idea of free public education, leaving already under-funded public schools in not-so-subtle ways debased and devalued.
  5. E) Free non-partisan, non-sectarian public education is the best idea we’ve ever had. It has built our place in the world and undergirded as much commitment to democratic values, excellence, unity and sense of common purpose as we’ve so far been able to sustain. How has it come to this, that our governor could take us over a cliff with no seeming awareness or care for the damage, and knowing, perhaps counting on it being irreversible?
  6. F) Our governor tries to walk two paths, proclaiming earnest-faced support for public education while building the framework to damage it. The question is why. Lee gets around Tennessee’s constitutional ban on taxpayers supporting religious organizations by giving the voucher money directly to parents who may then choose religious schools. This is a stratagem directly out of the theocratic Dominionist playbook for giving “right-thinking” Christians “dominion” over everybody else. Our governor is an enthusiastic adherent.

If you agree this is indefensibly costly, divisive, and dangerous, clip, copy, and mail this to your state representative and senator, and talk about it.


Jennie Young

former teacher