A bill by the governor has parents and teachers divided, and it all has to do with public and private education. The bill would pay for some qualifying students to go to private schools. Some groups are pushing back. 

"I am sick of being ignored," said Shelby County Schools teacher Tikeila Rucker, speaking to a large gathering of parents and teachers near the state capital. "I am sick of funds being taken out of public education to go to private entities. Governor Lee has declared war on teachers and our students."

Group members against the school voucher bill were gathered by the Tennessee Strong coalition. 

"Public education is under attack, and we're here to take a stand and fight back," said Rucker.

Governor Lee says the five-year, $125 million proposal would boost the number of students from underperforming districts to go to a private school at no cost to the family. The governor has previously stated the bill would give opportunities to children who wouldn't have them otherwise. 

In her visit to Nashville last week, US Edcuation Secretary Betsy DeVos stated her support for voucher programs.

"We've seen in Florida, for example, where students have opted to go to schools other than their assigned school, all of the schools, all of the achievement has continued to rise," she said. 

"We don't have the luxury of worrying about a handful of children," said Knox County teacher Lauren Hobson, speaking to another crowd assembled by the Tennessee Democratic Party. "We have to worry about the 90% of the children across the country left in schools with us."

Hobson and other critics believe underfunding is the real battle in public schools. 

"Our legislators actually have a constitutional duty in Tennessee to maintain and support a public education," she said. "They have no duty to support private education."

If the bill passes, it would give vouchers to 5,000 students in the first year and eventually go up to 15,000.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Forrest Sanders is an award-winning reporter, videographer and editor at News4.

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