NASHVILLE — Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean have squared off on a number of issues, but the battle over whether Tennessee will become the latest state to implement school vouchers has taken center stage.
If implemented, the controversial proposal that would rely on publicly funded scholarships would give Tennessee parents the option of sending their children to private schools.
The proposal has failed to gain widespread support in the Tennessee General Assembly despite having received the support of Gov. Bill Haslam. Lee, a successful Tennessee businessman, supports the option, while Dean, a former mayor Nashville, opposes it.
“What I believe is that every single kid in Tennessee ought to have access to quality education,” Lee said on Wednesday, adding that implementing the school voucher program would be a win-win for both students and the state.
“The vast majority of our kids are going to be educated in our public school system,” he said. “We can’t do anything to reduce the quality.”
However, in a statement released on Tuesday, Dean said Tuesday that vouchers would take away needed funding from public schools and “put it in the hands of a private system with no guarantee of quality.”
“You will start to see private systems set up to take advantage of the vouchers, taking students directly from public schools, and that would be the end of public education as we know it,” he said.
“Tennesseans deserve a governor who is going to not only protect funding for public education but increase the investment by making it the state’s #1 priority.”