Rise & Shine: Voucher program won’t harm public schools, governor says

Good morning,

Gov. Bill Lee brought his State of the State address to Memphis Thursday night where he reiterated the importance of education in his administration and to the future of Tennessee. He again advocated for "school choice" and touted his support for charter schools and a voucher program, which he referred to as education savings accounts.

During a media briefing afterward, I asked Lee to address concerns that vouchers would siphon money from public schools. But the Republican governor said that wouldn't be the case. “For every dollar that goes with a child that leaves a school or a district, that district will receive a fill-in-the-gap amount of equal amount,” he said. I also asked him where the $25 million for the voucher program would come, to which he answered, "recurring revenues” in the budget.

Earlier in the day, Tami Sawyer, a  Memphis activist, Shelby County Commissioner and director of diversity and cultural competence at Teach for America’s Memphis branch, announced her bid for mayor. Sawyer and Willie Herenton, a former Memphis mayor, former school superintendent and charter school operator, both have education backgrounds. Although the Memphis mayor's legal authority over public schools is limited, the city's top leader has considerable sway to steer the public conversation and to dictate local funding. Sawyer and Herenton are hoping unseat Jim Strickland, an attorney with no educational background, but who has advocated expanding pre-K to the city's neediest children.

And finally, don't forget this weekend is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, so set your clocks forward (spring forward!) an hour before you go to bed on Saturday.

Have a great weekend!

— Jacinthia Jones, bureau chief


SCHOOL CHOICE Gov. Bill Lee doubled down Thursday on his plan to give “educational choices” — including vouchers — to students from low-income families in Tennessee’s lowest-performing districts, and he said that his proposal would not come at the expense of public school funding. Chalkbeat

MAYOR’S RACE Two Memphians with education credentials are running against incumbent Jim Strickland in the city’s October mayoral race. Chalkbeat

FIRST TRIP On her first trip to Hamilton County, new Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn recognized and affirmed her commitment to the work that the school district and the state are doing to improve some of Hamilton County’s highest-needs schools. Chattanooga Times Free Press

SCHOOL CLOSING The New Vision Academy charter school in Nashville is closing its doors following a year of local, state and federal investigations and the recent revelation that its facility violates fire code. The Tennessean 

TEACHERS RESIGN Two Williamson County Schools teachers have resigned following a slavery assignment. The Tennessean

TEACHER PAY Knox County teachers and other school staff may be in line for a 4 percent raise next year under a suggestion by the superintendent. Knoxville News Sentinel

PRE-K PLANNING The Jackson-Madison school board, some county commissioners and community members toured Malesus Elementary School after a long-range planning committee recommendation to place pre-K classes there. The Jackson Sun

SCHOOL DEMOLITION A rare, segregation-era school building near downtown Nashville will likely be demolished to make way for a new home to an arts-centric high school. Nashville Public Radio

OPINION Instead of dealing with the problem of underfunded public education and uninspired solutions, our new governor and leaders in our legislature are about to – sigh, again – try and pack the problem up and send it off to the leafy shade of private schools. Daily Memphian