A coalition of civil rights and parent groups spoke out against Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s proposal to create a voucher program, Chalkbeat reports.

The Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, which champions policies that address disparities in education, said Lee’s plan to create education savings accounts would instead end up helping middle-class families. The accounts are a new kind of voucher that give families taxpayer money to pay for private school or other private education services.

The group charged that the proposed plan would exclude and discriminate against some students and questioned the state’s ability to measure the program’s success if participants are not required to take the same state assessments as Tennessee’s public school students.

Calling voucher bills moving through the legislature “a step backwards” for Tennessee, the coalition urged the governor to instead invest more money in proven school improvement strategies like Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone, which gives additional resources and pays for extended school days to turn around low-performing schools….

The coalition’s diverse members include the Tennessee chapter of the NAACP, the YWCA, the National Civil Rights Museum, and education funds, foundations, or urban leagues in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.

“Vouchers take critical resources away from our neighborhood public schools, the very schools that are attended by the vast majority of African-American students,” the NAACP said in a separate statement. “Furthermore, private and parochial schools are not required to observe federal nondiscrimination laws, even if they receive federal funds through voucher programs.”

Governor Lee met with leaders from the urban districts that would be affected by vouchers, and they gave him an earful.

“If this voucher bill passes, the private schools will pick the best of the best, and we will become a district of the academically and behaviorally challenged,” said Stephanie Love, a board member with Shelby County Schools in Memphis, recounting her message to the governor as she left the meeting.

In all, more than 20 board members and four superintendents from Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Jackson met with the governor, according to Tammy Grissom, executive director of the Tennessee School Board Association, which organized the gathering….

Meanwhile, the administration revised its proposed budget to move the $25 million previously allocated for the controversial program to go instead to fighting hepatitis C in state prisons. Lee’s finance commissioner, Stuart McWhorter, said the funding shift is not a sign of trouble for the governor’s education plan.