Tennessee Federation for Children press release, NASHVILLE, TENN. (June 1, 2015) – At Saturday night’s annual Statesman’s Dinner for the Tennessee Republican Party, Gov. Jeb Bush made a passionate case for school choice and education reform, highlighting the impact his reforms had in improving education in Florida, as well as improving the individual lives of people impacted by the reforms. He spoke about Denisha Merriweather, whose life was positively impacted as a result of school choice, later becoming the first in her immediate family to graduate from high school and first in her extended family to graduate college.
This year, Tennessee legislators enacted a limited school choice program tailored to children with special needs but failed to enact a more robust program which could have served thousands of children in need.
Bush spoke about the transformative power of school choice and how Florida could serve as model for Tennessee. “In Florida, we created the first statewide voucher program of any state in the United States. And we expanded school choice both public and private to be the leader in the United States,” said Bush. “
Last year I met a woman named Denisha Merriweather. She’s an African American woman, who was in Florida when we started these reforms. She was held back twice in third grade. She was struggling. She lived in a family not dissimilar to families that are in poverty here in Nashville and other places where they move around, where there’s no stability in their lives, where they go school to school because that’s where instead of being able to pick the school of their choice they’re told by the monopolies where their kid has to go. She was angry and she was never told she was smart. Her godmother found out that we had a corporate tax scholarship program. A program that now sends 70,000 low-income kids to private schools, the largest by far in the country. Denisha took advantage of this. She was told for the first time that she was smart. There was discipline in the school. She understood that she could learn. She regained one of those grades that she lost. And Denisha Merriweather was the first in her family to graduate from high school and the first in her extended family to graduate from college.”