After a lengthy debate, Governor Bill Lee’s pet school vouchers initiative passed the education committee today with 14 votes in favor, 9 against, and 1 – Kirk Haston, a teacher from Lobelville – being recorded as “present not voting”.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) March 27, 2019
John Deberry Jr. was again the lone Democrat to side with the Republicans who voted to pass the bill.
Deberry also voted for the statewide charter authorization board and the Heartbeat Bill, making controversial comments about both.
He also recently questioned the need for a commission to investigate charges of discrimination.
It seemed to be the last straw for House Democrats. Look for them to take action against Deberry soon.
The bill now moves to the house floor to be voted on by all the members, where it will likely pass (but not definitely, so keep calling!).
The senate will then take it up, and Senate Majority leader Jack Johnson has already said he will personally “vouch” for it, supporting vouchers “1000%” – as long as they don’t affect Williamson County, where he, Speaker Casada, and Governor Lee all live.
NEW VIDEO: Williamson County’s @SenJohnson – “SCHOOL VOUCHERS FOR THEE, NOT FOR ME”
If vouchers are good for the rest of TN, why is the senate majority leader so careful to make sure the HIS voters know THEIR schools won’t be impacted? ?
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) February 25, 2019
The testimony was split into two panels, with representatives from the TEA, a Hamilton County School Board member, and the Director of the Board of Superintendents speaking first against the bill, laying out how it would harm public schools by directing public funds to private schools who would not have to abide by the same accountability standards as public schools.
The second panel was in favor of the bill, and included a principal of Chattanooga Christian and students who had benefitted from private school educations and spoke passionately.
Each member of the committee had a chance to speak, most memorably representative Jerry Sexton, who implied public school students were prisoners and even said “Let My People Go!” at one point, prompting the African-American representatives on the committee to nearly jump out of their seats.
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) March 27, 2019
Harold Love Jr. spoke passionately about Republicans “using black kids to pass this bill” instead of funding their neighborhoods and investing in them directly:
“We don’t need THIS BILL to make their neighborhoods better.”
Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) aske Rep. Dunn, the carrier of the bill, why private schools wouldn’t just lower their tuition if letting in low income students was such a noble venture.
Dunn did not have a good answer.
He also did not have a good answer for the constitutionality of a provision that seeks to exclude undocumented students from participating in the program.
Rep. Dunn, who carried the bill, started off the discussion by saying “socialists” like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were against the bill, prompting groans from the audience.
It remains unclear why the government giving money to people to go to private schools is any less “socialist” than anything else.
Below are some reactions to the passage of the bill. It seems unlikely the bill gets voted down on the floor, but there’s still time to HOLLER at your reps.
This is not the will of Memphians nor in their best interest Mr. Deberry and you know it! You are here to represent THEIR will NOT your own. https://t.co/LP3doYb3sV
— Melly? (@tnhunnybee) March 27, 2019
John De-not-a-Democrat-Berry https://t.co/cKEvmkamqj
— Alex Carmack (@AlexCarmack) March 27, 2019
The supermajority naturally wants to give our new Guv a victory in his first major legislative initiative, vouchers/ESA. I understand.I fervently hope they choose tech/voc ed or crim justice reform instead.The consequences of vouchers/ESA are multiple and severe.#educationmatters
— Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (@craigfitzhugh) March 26, 2019
HOW THEY VOTED:
Present and not voting……………….1
Representatives voting aye were: Baum, Cepicky, DeBerry, Dunn, Hurt, Leatherwood, Moody, Ragan, Rudder, Sexton J, Weaver, White, Williams, Mr. Speaker Casada — 14.
Representatives voting no were: Byrd, Cochran, Coley, Dixie, Hodges, Love, Parkinson, Vaughan, Windle — 9.
Representatives present and not voting were: Haston — 1.
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