Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bill would give scholarships to low-income students in failing schools to attend private schools. Teachers union and other libs dig in to stop it.

There is bill pending in the State legislature that would authorize a very modest scholarship program for the most disadvantaged students and for those in the very worst schools. It would allow those low income students in failing schools to take the money that is being spend on their education and attend a private school. The private school would have to accept the scholarship amount as payment in full for the cost of tuition and fees that school year. Initially only 5,000 of these scholarships would be authorized.

Liberals are going ballistic. The Democrat party establishment, their teacher union bosses and liberal pundits are digging in to oppose this experiment. They want to maintain the current monopoly structure of  public education.  Apparently their is a liberal mindset that it is better for all poor people to be struck in perpetual poverty rather than only some have the opportunity to escape. If I were cynical I would think liberals want to keep Blacks, Latinos and poor people in general on the liberal plantation of government dependency so they will always look to their master for subsistence. I would think they are more interested in subsidizing poverty and keeping their voting block intact rather than seeing people escape poverty.

Below is a statement in support of the bill from Latinos for Tennessee and The Tennessee Black Alliance for Educational Options and a summary of the bill.

Latinos for Tennessee Applauds Legislature for HB 1049

Nashville, Tennessee - The dream of expanding educational freedom to all Tennessee students is beginning to take shape thanks to the determination and courage of a number of Tennessee State Legislators. Latinos for Tennessee, an organization dedicated to taking the message of faith, family and fiscal responsibility to Latinos all across the state applauds the work being undertaken by the Tennessee Legislature on House Bill 1049.

If approved, House Bill 1049 would provide education scholarships for private school tuition for students that meet certain requirements, including those that are zoned for the bottom five percent of schools in the state.

With news that the House Bill 1049 was approved by the House Budget Committee and the House Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee, Raul Lopez, Executive Director, for Latinos for Tennessee issued the following statement:

"Education is a top priority for Latinos all across our country, including here in Tennessee. Unfortunately, millions of Latino students are stuck in struggling schools desperately seeking a lifeline of opportunity. School choice is a great way to empower families and students seeking to live out the American Dream. We urge the Legislature to continue the important work of advancing school choice so that every single child in Tennessee can receive a quality education."

For more information about Latinos for Tennessee, please visit: and find us on Facebook under: Latinos for Tennessee.

Tennessee Black Alliance for Educational Options supports HB1049

Dear Supporter,
I will make this brief…
Yesterday, Tennessee BAEO, along with parents, pastors, and advocates traveled to Nashville to attend the House Finance Sub-committee hearings to encouraged lawmakers to support the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act (HB1049). I’m happy to report the bill passed a key hurdle in the State House. 

If the legislation becomes law, the scholarships will assist eligible low-income and working-class Black families with sending their children to participating private schools.  In a nutshell, our state has not done a good job educating our children. Currently there are over 80,000 children trapped in low-performing schools in Memphis. 

Please share this email with family, friends and colleagues in your networks and invite them to join the movement. If we don’t act now, another year will pass and the talented children of Tennessee will fall further behind and be forced to attend failing schools.

This is only the beginning. Our work is not done and in order to be successful, we need everyone to JOIN US! Add your voice and stay connected to the movement by texting Believe to 52886.
CLICK HERE to view a clip from the January 20th Finance Committee hearing
It’s time we #BelieveInOpportunity! We look forward to partnering with you to bring forth needed change for our children in Tennessee.

For the children,
Mendell Grinter
State Director
Tennessee Black Alliance for Educational Options

Below is the summary of the bill as posted on the Tennessee General Assembly website (link). 
This bill establishes a scholarship program for eligible students to attend participating private K-12 schools. An "eligible student" is a student who:

(1) Resides in Tennessee and is zoned to attend or enrolled in a public school that, at the time of the student's initial application for a scholarship, is identified as being in the bottom five percent of schools in overall achievement;
(2) Meets the minimum age requirements to attend kindergarten with eligibility extending until the student graduates from high school, except that the student must be less than 22 years of age by August 15 of each year;
(3) Is a member of a household whose annual income during the year prior to initial receipt of a scholarship met the requirements for free or reduced price lunch; and
(4) Was previously enrolled in a Tennessee public school during the two semesters immediately preceding the semester in which the student receives a scholarship under this bill; is enrolling in a Tennessee school for the first time; or received a scholarship pursuant to this bill in the previous school year.

In order to participate in the scholarship program, the private school must:

(1) Be identified as a category I, II, or III school and comply with all health and safety laws or codes that are applicable to such schools;
(2) Annually administer to scholarship students state assessments or nationally recognized tests approved by the state board of education that measure educational progress and provide the parents of scholarship students with the results of the assessments;
(3) Provide the department of education with graduation rates of scholarship students as well as other student information as required by the department;
(4) Comply with federal nondiscrimination policies and not discriminate against students with special education needs who meet the requirements for admission to the school. However, as a private school, the school is required to offer only those services it already provides to assist students with special needs. If a scholarship student would have been entitled to receive special education services in the public school the student would otherwise be attending, then the parent must acknowledge in writing, as part of the enrollment process, that the parent agrees to accept only services that have been identified as available to the student in the nonpublic school. A participating school may partner with an LEA to provide special education services;
(5) Accept the scholarship amount as payment in full for the cost of tuition and fees that would otherwise be charged by the school and allow scholarship students to remain enrolled in the school for the duration of the school year at no additional cost if the school withdraws from the program during the school year;
(6) Submit to the department a financial audit of the school conducted by a certified public accountant;
(7) Demonstrate financial viability to repay any funds that may be owed to the state by filing with the department financial information verifying the school has the ability to pay an amount equal to the amount of the scholarships expected to be paid during the school year. The school may comply with this requirement by filing a surety bond payable to the state;
(8) Require any person applying for a position as a teacher, or any other position requiring close proximity to children, to submit to a criminal background check;
(9) Provide lunch to scholarship students at no cost or at a reduced cost pursuant to the same income qualifications established under the National School Lunch Program; and
(10) Comply with rules prohibiting the employment of individuals who advocate to overthrow the American government or who are members of a political party subscribing to a political faith that advocates doing so.

After initial approval by the department as a participating school, a school may continue to participate in the program as long as the school demonstrates achievement growth for scholarship students at a minimum level of "at expectations." If a participating school demonstrates achievement growth for scholarship students at a level of "significantly below expectations" for two consecutive years or the department determines the school has failed to comply with this bill, then the commissioner of education may suspend or terminate a school's participation in the program. If a participating school is suspended or terminated from the program, or if the school otherwise withdraws from the program, scholarship students enrolled at the school may transfer to another participating school without loss of eligibility and such students would be given preference for enrollment.

An eligible student will be entitled to one scholarship per school year. If a student voluntarily leaves a participating school for reasons other than the suspension or termination of the school's participation in the program and enrolls in another participating school, neither the student nor the successor participating school will receive any funds under this bill for the remainder of the school year. If the student enrolls in the LEA in which the student resides and is zoned to attend, the LEA will receive the funds that otherwise would have been remitted to the participating school on behalf of the student.

Except as mentioned above regarding LEAs that adopt different guidelines, the annual amount of the scholarship will be the lesser of the following:

(1) The cost of tuition and fees that would otherwise be charged by the school; or
(2) The amount representing the per-pupil state and local funds generated and required through the BEP for the LEA in which the student resides and is zoned to attend.

The scholarship funds will be subtracted from the state funds otherwise payable to the LEA and will be paid directly to the participating school. If the participating school's cost of tuition and fees is less than the scholarship amount, the remaining funds will be retained by the department and the LEA in which the scholarship recipient resides.

The amount of scholarship awarded to a student will not be treated as income or assets for the purposes of any tax or qualification for any other federal or state grant program.

The total number of scholarships awarded statewide under this bill will be limited as follows:

(1) For the 2015-2016 school year, the department may not award more than 5,000 scholarships;
(2) For the 2016-2017 school year, the department may not award more than 7,500 scholarships;
(3) For the 2017-2018 school year, the department may not award more than 10,000 scholarships; and
(4) For the 2018-2019 school year and thereafter, the department may not award more than 20,000 scholarships.

This bill requires the department to develop procedures to allocate scholarships among participating schools if the number of available seats exceeds the above limitations. If the number of eligible students applying for scholarships at a particular school in a particular grade exceeds the number of scholarships awarded, the department must inform parents of eligible students of all available scholarship options and provide an opportunity for parents to apply to other participating schools. If, after all possible matches of eligible students with participating schools have been made, there are scholarships still available, the remaining scholarships will be awarded to eligible students who reside in an LEA that contains at least one school in the bottom five percent of schools in overall achievement as determined by the performance standards and other criteria set by the state board.

This bill requires the department to develop procedures necessary for administering the program, and specifies in detail requirements for the department in administering the program.

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