“It’s The Role Of This Committee To Get to the Bottom Of a $4 MILLION SLUSH FUND” Rep. Mike Stewart and Rep. Bo Mitchell call on Rep. Martin Daniel to investigate mysterious MONEY Gov. Lee may have used to get public school-harming vouchers passed. Even speaker Cameron Sexton calls it “troubling”.
Recently we learned a $4 MILLION line item found its way into the budget, seemingly intended for grant projects in rural communities to grease the skids for Governor Lee’s public school-harming vouchers, which would steer public money to private schools.
The legislation may have been the brainchild of Speaker Glen Casada, who has since stepped down in disgrace, but it clearly also has the fingerprints of Governor Lee and his Finance Dept. chief Stuart Mcwhorter all over it.
There have been reports that 60 specific projects were promised to rural legislators to get their votes for the bill, which barely passed the house, but Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe says he has seen no such list, and points the finger SQUARELY at Lee and Mcwhorter.
WATCH BELOW as Rolfe says “WE DID NOT PROPOSE THAT”, distancing himself from the money at the budget hearing last week. (Rep. Martin Daniel has said there will be no investigation into this. Shocker!)
State Senator Raumesh Akbari talks about why Governor Lee’s public school-harming vouchers shouldn’t be rushed, and why Tennessee needs to expand Medicaid.
Listen to the PODCAST HERE.
CLIP: State Sen. Akbari on $1 BILLION In Unspent Aid: “FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD”
This post was first seen on the Tennessee Education Report. For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport
That’s the grade Tennessee gets from the Education Law Center’s latest report on school funding in the United States. To be clear, Tennessee earned an F in both funding level and funding effort. We earned a C in distribution of the paltry sum our state dedicates to schools.
Here’s how Education Law Center defines those terms:
- Funding Level – the cost-adjusted, per-pupil revenue from state and local sources
- Funding Distribution – the extent to which additional funds are distributed to school districts with high levels of student poverty
- Funding Effort – the level of investment in K-12 public education as a percentage of state wealth (GDP) allocated to maintain and support the state school system
The report notes that Tennessee is 43rd in the nation in overall funding level and 47th in effort. The effort category is of particular interest because it indicates that Tennessee has significant room for improvement in terms of funding level. That is, there are untapped resources Tennessee is NOT using to fund schools.
Shorter: Funding schools is NOT a key policy priority in Tennessee.
Additional evidence for this can be found in graphics shared by Think Tennessee earlier this year:
Tennessee is (and has been) at or near the bottom in school funding and even in funding effort. That’s not changing. Instead, Governor Lee and his policy acolytes are diverting education dollars to voucher schemes and charter schools.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport
Channel 5’s report on Governor Lee’s possible involvement with disgraced speaker Glen Casada offering a military promotion to Rep. Windle as a bribe for a key vote on his public school-harming vouchers bill.
Lee’s office claims to have ZERO texts from the day, won’t share emails either. 🤔
Here’s a new Facebook Live interview from this morning with Andy Spears of the TN Education report.
Andy talks about the #VoucherVultures descending on Nashville thanks to Governor Bill Lee’s new legislation, and what we can do to push back against Lee’s all-out assault on public schools.
Roughly one month after Governor Bill Lee signed his Education Savings Account voucher scheme into law, a North Carolina-based private school announced it is expanding operations to Nashville.
Perhaps not surprisingly, tuition at the school is similar to the amount available to families in Nashville and Memphis under the ESA program.
The school, Thales Academy, is operated by the CEO of a commercial kitchen ventilation company. Bob Luddy is also a top GOP donor in North Carolina.
Here’s Luddy on how great his schools are:
“We get results. If you look consistently over a period of time, kindergarten students come in, they can barely walk in the door, they can barely sit down, and then you see them progress as they learn sounds, and they learn to decode. By the time they progress into the 3rd or 4th grade they’re doing very sophisticated work, which is going to prepare them to be excellent students in the long term,” Luddy says in a video on the Thales Academy website.
And here’s more on accreditation straight from the school’s website:
The accreditation process does not align with Thales Academy’s mission and would prevent Thales from maintaining our standard of the highest quality education.
Thales and Luddy are not new to Tennessee. In fact, in 2015, voucher advocate Lee Barfield paid for a private plane to take former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and then-House Speaker Beth Harwell to North Carolina to visit the Thales schools.
Like Bill Lee, Barfield is a long-time supporter of Betsy DeVos’s American Federation for Children and even served on the group’s Board of Directors.
Those in the GOP cozying up to Luddy should beware, though, he’s known for expressing his disappointment where it hurts politicians the most: Campaign contributions.
Here’s how he treated the House GOP in North Carolina:
A major conservative donor’s decision this week to divert a planned $25,000 contribution away from state House Republicans highlights an increasingly bitter divide within the party over tax policy and government spending.
Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy, who chairs the board of the conservative Civitas Institute think tank and is an influential financial supporter of conservative candidates, emailed a sharp critique of the House budget to House Republicans, who are in the majority.
Luddy complained that the budget advancing to a major vote on Thursday does not include new tax cuts and extends tax breaks for specific industries. He called the spending plan too “liberal” and said he’s decided to withold his planned, annual donation to the House Republicans’ campaign committee.
Luddy instead directed his money to Americans for Prosperity and then issued this sharp rebuke to those who had taken his money in the past but were not doing his bidding:
But Luddy says the state shouldn’t prop up the solar industry. “These guys couldn’t exist without government subsidies, and those subsidies have to come from every working taxpayer who are capable of creating way more jobs than the solar industry could ever create,” he said.
Here’s a guy who plans on using public money to fund his private school scheme and he’s decrying the use of public funds to support an industry he simply doesn’t like. Perhaps if public money shouldn’t be used to “prop up the solar industry” it also shouldn’t be used to prop up Luddy’s Thales Academy.
Those who warned that passage of vouchers would lead to “pop-up” private schools have already been proven right. Thales Academy and Bob Luddy were invited into Tennessee by Bill Lee and friends and are now perched like hungry vultures ready to suck funds from Nashville’s public schools.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport
This week Governor Lee visited Lawrenceburg alongside Rep. Clay Doggett and Rep. Joey Hensley as part of a mini-tour through Lawrence and a few other rural counties, and the subject of his Education Savings Accounts aka School Vouchers plan was brought up, and Lee again made it plain as day he is no friend to public schools, and that ESA’s are not a way to fix public schools, they’re a way to dismantle them.
As a reminder, ESA’s are vouchers that will allow kids to take public money to private schools, draining public schools of resources while steering money to what are in many cases religious for-profit Christian schools not subject to the same levels of accountability as Tennessee’s public schools.
The ESA program has been a priority of Governor Lee, but also of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, who has said on tape that her main agenda is to “Advance God’s Kingdom” through initiatives like vouchers.
ESA’s passed the house 50-48 after some serious arm-twisting by Glen Casada. Jason Zachary was the rep who flipped at the last minute, while insisting he was not promised anything for his vote. The FBI is allegedly now looking into what happened.
At this town hall, a woman stood up and asked Governor Lee about tax credits for those who don’t want their kids going to public schools. She expressed skepticism about the curriculum, saying that’s why she chose to remove her kids from public schools and now wants to not have to pay for them:
“Because some of us are paying taxes for services we’re not even using.”
Instead of expressing his support for public schools and pointing out how devastating it would be to our society if public schools were suddenly gutted by laws that required only those who use them to pay for them – meaning single people, people with grown kids, etc. could opt out (imagine the same if people decided they didn’t need police, or roads – an a la carte pay-for-what-you-use tax system is simply not what we have here in America).
No, Governor Lee went a different route. He expressed sympathy for the woman’s perspective, implied that he shares her vision for the future and believes ESA’s are the best way of getting there:
“If the people of Tennessee see good outcomes and results from that, then what we’ll start seeing is a greater desire and request for school choice, and we’ll look to alternative ways to do it.”
Lee tells her that because there’s no income tax in Tennessee, Education Savings Accounts are the best way to get where she’s trying to go – and that once people see that steering public money to private schools is a good thing, soon it won’t just be happening in Nashville and Memphis – the only two places currently targeted with the ESA’s (which is why Shelby and Davidson are taking legal action) – over the cries of the reps from those districts.
Lee wants vouchers to eventually be everywhere. And then he’s open to other “alternative” ways to dismantle public schools and get their hands on those public dollars.
Lee very clearly did not dismiss the woman’s vision for a future in which nobody who doesn’t want to support public schools has to, where people can instead take all those public tax dollars and steer them to private schools under the guise of “school choice” – “Advancing God’s Kingdom” as Betsy Devos puts it.
This is only the beginning.
In the same meeting, Clay Doggett also reminded us again that the only reason he and 49 other reps voted for the vouchers was because they were promised vouchers wouldn’t come anywhere near their districts.
Senator Jack Johnson told Williamson County the same, and Rep. Crawford told The Holler that no he wouldn’t like it if vouchers were imposed on his district against his will, as is being done to Shelby and Davidson.
For more on vouchers, read The TN Ed Report’s recent piece on it.
Thank you Kristina for going there and showing up. We’d like to encourage everyone to show up at all town halls across the state and ask tough questions, and Holler at us with your videos.
It went as well as could be expected. I asked Lee about Byrd, he gave me a non-answer. Senator Hensley suddenly found the power to speak after ignoring us in Waynesboro. I did get a bit of a kerfuffle going on about vouchers quite unintentionally. 🤷♀️
— Kristina Richardson (@AllCapsKristi) June 29, 2019
With Governor Bill Lee’s public school-harming vouchers on the verge of passing, teachers, moms and business leaders from across the state headed to the hill to plead with legislators to see the light and vote against them.
The conference committee is TOMORROW at 8AM. Holler at your reps… and show up if you can!