Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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UC Leader Breathing Sigh Of Relief On Vouchers

Upper Cumberland education leaders are breathing a sigh of relief as Governor Lee’s proposed School Voucher Program appears dead for this year.

Overton County Education Association President Jennifer Eilender said she and many other public school teachers have been holding their breath since the idea was introduced. She said she anticipates that while public schools would experience minimal change in enrollment with a voucher program, they would be stripped of funding.

“So relieved that we have another year that we’re spared from it because the existence of this program spells extreme financial trouble for public schools across the state,” Eilender said.

Eilender said she said she would bet her last dollar that the program will be back next year and the fight will continue. She said over the next year, it will be vital for residents to reach out to legislators and have their voices heard.

She said educators have to identify which lawmakers in Nashville have turned a blind eye to the needs of public schools. Eilender said the loudest voice will be at the polls.

“We need to make sure that we put legislators in there that put public schools and education at the top of their list,” Eilender said. “And I don’t mean at the top of their list to destroy, at the top of their list to help.”

She said she is concerned that the public’s voice will not be as loud next year given that it is not an election year. She said she fears that most politicians believe that issues covered during non-election years do not heavily affect future votes.

“There have been some meetings with legislators and teachers just to try to get them to hear our voice,” Eilender said. “I can tell you that there are some legislators that hear us and support us loud and clear, and there are some that absolutely smile at us and say ‘Yes, oh I’m with you,’ and then they take their vote in a different direction.”

Eilender said most vouchers would likely be given to students who were never in the public school system to begin with. She said if public school students select a voucher and move to private school, it will likely be one or two at a time, not enough to carry the burden of funding cuts.

Political observers point to multiple bills on the voucher program doomed the idea in this session. The House and Senate each had differing views on had to manage the process.

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