A liberal mayor in the “red” state of Tennessee is fighting the state’s new education savings accounts that frees students from public schools.
In another state’s fight over a similar scholarship program, Arizona officials released private data of the disabled students who are participating.
Tennessee’s GOP-led legislature passed a school voucher program in 2019, which is expected to kick off this fall with approximately 5,000 students benefitting.
But the new law is opposed by Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who is suing the Tennessee Dept. of Education and claims the Education Savings Account Pilot program is unconstitutional.
Democratic leaders in Shelby and Davidson counties, where the program will operate, are also joining in the suit.
Shelby County is home to crime-ridden Memphis, famous for its poor-performing city school district that merged with better-performing suburban schools in 2013. Those school districts fled from the merger in 2014.
Shaka Mitchell of the American Federation for Children tells OneNewsNow the lawsuit is a naked attempt to control families who have suffered under poor-performing public schools.
“And it’s about keeping those communities that have been underserved for a long time,” he says, “reliant upon schools that don’t do their kids justice.”
In the state of Arizona, meanwhile, the American Federation is speaking out after the state’s department of education released a file of every family participating in the Empowerment Scholarship Account. The information found its ways into the hands of those who oppose the program.
American Federation spokesman Steve Smith says it’s likely the state violated HIPA rules, and probably the Americans with Disabilities Act, by releasing the information.
“You’ve go so much,” he says, “it’s like how on earth could something like this happen.”
A spokesperson for the state agency has assured the public the information will not be used but Smith tells OneNewsNow he remains unconvinced of that promise.
“We’re already heard from some parents,” he says, “that they’ve experienced some level of harassment since their data was released.”
Back in Tennessee, Mitchell says opponents of the education vouchers are wrong when they claim it takes money from public education. Gov. Bill Lee implemented a program that replaces almost all of the state funds that are transferred for the voucher program. Local funds remain untouched.
“In fact,” Mitchell says of opponent’s claim, “the opposite is true.”