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While Tennessee currently allows students to switch from one public school to another, both in-and-out of district, their overall options are very limited. With the currently proposed legislation, SB196/HB190, legislators aim to create much greater educational opportunities that improve the lives of all children; especially low-income families. Children don’t deserve to fall victim to bureaucracies that standardize school programs when their individual needs are at stake. Parents deserve to choose which schools they want to send their children to to make sure they have the best education possible no matter what their income.
The proposed legislation helps students gain equal access to private and charter schools and provides a voucher equal to the cost east student is spent on by the state. As the bill states, “the amount representing the per pupil state and local funds generated and required through the Basic Education Program (BEP) for the LEA in which the student resides and is zoned to attend.” The state’s average per pupil cost is $6,182, allowing eligible students a generous voucher to switch schools.
This bill supports Governor Haslam’s plan for a voucher program that gives low-income students as much of a chance as any other student with a better education. As written by the Metro Pulse, “The legislation as currently written, without any amendments—would only apply to students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches (i.e., an income of $42,643 or less for a family of four) who also happen to attend a school determined to be in the bottom five percent of schools in the state. Six of these schools are in Davidson County, six are in Hamilton County, one is in Hardeman County, one is in Knox County, and all the other 69 schools are in Memphis City Schools.”
Not only does this bill strongly support the efforts for low-income families who receive the voucher, but will also improve the lives of families who stay with their low-ranking public schools; through competition. As seen by other states who have been involved in school choice programs, schools are afraid that by losing students they will lose funding. In turn, these schools work to upgrade and increase their offered programs and revamp the overall effectiveness of their curriculum.
Upon passing of this legislation, parents of all socioeconomic classes will have the ability to move their children out of schools which standardize their children’s lives. Schools that traditionally have only been accessed by wealthier families will open their doors to all parents who want only the best for their children’s education and separate individual needs.