A proposal to provide parents with tax money to help pay for their children to attend private or religious schools – to the tune of well over $25 million a year in state and local expenditures – is currently making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly.
SB 795/HB 939 raises numerous concerns. Private school vouchers violate the fundamental principle of religious freedom by funding religious education with taxpayer funds. Additionally, students attending private voucher schools are not afforded the same rights and protections they have in public schools, including First Amendment protections, due process and other rights.
Voucher systems can also have disparate impacts on different groups of children. Private voucher schools often do not adequately serve students with disabilities or low-income students. And Tennessee’s voucher bill would explicitly discriminate against undocumented families, excluding them from participating in the program – despite the fact that federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of national origin in public education.