The Shelby County Commission approved a resolution Monday opposing a voucher bill that likely would drain the public school system of more students by providing “scholarships” to low-income students to attend private schools.

“I believe in the access to a quality education for every child in Memphis, and the current bill doesn’t provide that,” Chairman Justin Ford said after the meeting and unanimous vote.

Under several bills advancing in the Tennessee General Assembly, scholarships would be made available to students zoned to schools ranked academically in the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state – the vast majority of which are in Memphis. The fiscal note on one bill says local school districts stand to lose as much as $70 million and would provide $5,000 vouchers to each of 5,000 students the first year and 20,000 students two years later.

Follow the status of education-related bills in the 109th Tennessee General Assembly.
Follow the status of education-related bills in the 109th Tennessee General Assembly.

Supporters of vouchers say parents should be able to spend their tax dollars on an education they think is most appropriate for their children.

Opponents fear vouchers could hurt traditional public school systems and point to research that shows vouchers haven’t proven effective in other states.