This excellent article in the Nashville Post explains why the proposal for vouchers didn’t go anywhere.


Republicans control both houses of the legislature, and the voucher proposal passed easily in the state senate. But it has stalled for four years in the house of representatives. The main sponsor of the bill is Bill Dunn, a Republican from Knoxville. His bill could be introduced later in this session but if he had the votes, he would have introduced it now.


Democrats opposed it, but they didn’t have the votes to derail it. The most important opposition came from rural legislators, even after the sponsor agreed to limit vouchers only to Shelby County, where Memphis is located. The rural legislators know what a foot in the door looks like.



The fight over school vouchers has gone on for the better part of a decade, arguing that low-income kids in failing schools should be able to pursue a private, and presumed better, education using public dollars. But opponents argue such a system would drain money from already struggling public school districts and use that government money to fund tuition at parochial schools.


With the Senate having passed a school voucher bill easily last year, the House version for the first time managed to claw its way through the committee system — including the House Finance subcommittee, done with the help some membership changes and a key absence — and made its way to the House floor for the first time Thursday.


Vouchers has become one of the most heavily lobbied bills on the Hill, with at least a dozens lobbyists working largely in its favor — including seven just from StudentsFirst, the education advocacy group launched by Michelle Rhee. Organizations like StudentsFirst and other interest groups have not been shy donating to political campaigns.


Of course, there is no evidence that vouchers help kids with low test scores thrive; it didn’t happen in Milwaukee or Cleveland or DC or anywhere else, but voucher proponents are undeterred in their determination to allow children to attend religious schools, even if those schools have no certified teachers.


Democrats were jubilant over the bill’s assumed demise. Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini said, “It’s abundantly clear that all public schools in Tennessee simply do not have the same resources. Some are palaces with the most up-to-date technology available while others cannot supply a textbook to every child. Until this inequity is addressed and every child in every Tennessee ZIP code has access to an an equal, quality public education, diverting public dollars away from public schools is not be [sic] an option.”


The House Speaker said she favors the bill because, as everyone knows, private schools have a higher graduation rate than public schools. Note: Private schools do not enroll the same numbers of children from low-income homes, the same number of students with disabilities, or the same number of English language learners, as public schools. The private schools with the highest graduation rates are those that enroll students from high-income families where both parents are college graduates.