Tennessee Governor Bill Lee passed one of his first big tests.
It’s about education.
Let’s go to Nashville, where sometimes what happens in the Statehouse is the most exciting thing to hit the music city since the advent of shoes.
And when they’re discussing vouchers for private schools, or as Governor Bill Lee now calls it, his “Educational Savings Plan,” it can even top a pair of wing tips.
At least that’s what some members of the House Education Committee felt.
State Representative Chris Holls said it is foolish to keep doing what the state has been doing, because in his opinion, it doesn’t work.
“I was a high school teacher for 14 years,” he said. “We heard the discussions. Let’s give it a shot.”
The discussions over providing money for parents to send their children to private schools started decades ago.
They’ve become almost traditional yearly events in the Tennessee Statehouse.
But this time may be different, some Republicans don’t like the plan, while some Democrats, like Memphis State Representative John DeBerry, like it a lot.
“Education did not drop down from heaven,” he told committee members. “We created the system, so we have a right and a responsibility to let the system evolve. We act as though we have built this thing that cannot change, that is inalterable.”
Supporters say the Governor Lee education savings accounts will especially help the poor by giving them a boost in their wallets to help them pay for private schools.
It is an emotional issue, just like it has been over the last several years.
“My concern,” says State Representative Harold Love, a Democrat from Nashville, “… is when we use conversations about poor black kids to say we’re going to give them better access and choice. Why don’t we invest in the neighborhoods they live.”
The idea still has to wind its way through the legislature, and one thing is for certain. The vote to approve it in the education committee (14-9), a place where the idea has died in the past, indicates things might be different this year.