Rise & Shine: School vouchers are closer to reality and more about the man who wants to lead Memphis schools

Good morning,

After a decade of failed and abandoned attempts to start a school voucher program in Tennessee, 2019 may be recorded in history books as the year the school choice plan was finally ratified.  The Senate passed a voucher bill Thursday, joining the House in approving an education savings account program that permits taxpayer dollars to be used to pay for private school tuition.

But the devil is in the details. The bills in the two houses have substantial differences that still must be reconciled. For instance, one version limits the program to Memphis and Nashville; the other plan also includes Chattanooga and Knoxville. Other differences involve whether to include homeschoolers and how many state tests participants would be required to take annually. But Gov.Bill Lee, who campaigned on school choice and has championed the voucher legislation, is confidant the differences between the two chambers will be ironed out and a resolution will be reached.

Meanwhile, in Memphis, we take a closer look at Joris Ray, the interim superintendent of Shelby County Schools who wants the job permanently. Board members could decide Tuesday to forego a national search and "Stay with Ray" as some supporters have taken to saying.

Happy reading and have a great weekend!

— Jacinthia Jones, bureau chief


JORIS RAY Shelby County Schools board members are expected to decide Tuesday whether to forego a national superintendent search or hire Joris Ray outright. But who is Ray? Chalkbeat

VOUCHER VOTE Opening the door to a major new education program for Tennessee, the state’s Senate passed a voucher bill on Thursday, sending the controversial legislation to negotiators to hash out differences with a bill that cleared the House earlier this week. Chalkbeat, The Daily Memphian, The Tennessean, Nashville Public Radio, Local Memphis, WTVF

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday declared it was a “historic day” after the Republican’s voucher-like bill advanced out of the Senate despite being drastically scaled back and directly at odds with the House version of his legislation. Associated Press

NO FILES Shelby County Schools officials say there is no investigative file regarding the 2007 complaint against Interim Superintendent Joris Ray about improper and unethical hiring practices and the misuse of school funds. WMC-TV

BUDGET TALKS Superintendent Bryan Johnson wants to ask Hamilton County for an additional $34 million for Hamilton County Schools’ annual budget, though the district has identified approximately $80 million in increased needs. Chattanooga Times Free Press

BUS TRANSPORTATION As of July 1, Hamilton County Schools’ bus transportation will no longer be provided by Durham School Services. Chattanooga Times Free Press

TOP SCHOLARS East Tennessee’s top high school students were honored at the News Sentinel’s annual Academic Achievers Banquet. Knoxville News-Sentinel

DISTRICT RANKINGS Knox County Schools has been ranked as the third top school district in Tennessee by BackgroundChecks.org, following first-place Williamson County School District and Shelby County Schools District. Knoxville News-Sentinel

OPINION Rep. Jason Zachary, a Knoxville Republican, is asked: If it’s not a good plan for students in Knoxville, why would you support hanging this albatross [education savings accounts] around the necks of the Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga school districts? Crossville Chronicle