Memphis Families Return After Nashville School Vouchers Rally

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(Memphis) Thousands of Tennessee parents are showing their support for a bill aimed at helping children in failing schools get a better education.

School vouchers don’t exist here in Tennessee, but many are hoping lawmakers will allow parents, who can’t afford to send their children to private schools, to use public money to pay for it.

As currently written, private schools would still admit those they choose and enforce certain requirements.

“We need scholarships for low-income children,” said Reverend Dwight Montgomery with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He is passionate about school vouchers for low-income students in failing schools.

He says all schools need improvements, but kids can't wait until things are fixed, they need a better education now and for some kids, public schools just aren’t working.

“Public dollars were used to bail out the auto industry, why can't we use public dollars to bail out children who aren’t learning?” said Montgomery.

The Memphis chapter of the SCLC is back home from a quick trip to Nashville.

Eight busloads of parents traveled up the interstate joining thousands of other Tennessee parents, kids, teachers, lawmakers and Governor Bill Haslam in a rally for school choices.

Grandmother Georgia King joined them.

She called the rally beautiful and electrifying, especially for the Tennessee students who went.

“They don’t have to be locked in and oppressed to the education situation. They don’t have no hope, vouchers will give them hope,” said King.

In the past, school vouchers failed to pass in Nashville, supporters hope that will  change this year.

“We have a governor who is concerned our low-income children are not being educated. It’s not about politics,” said Montgomery.

“Do you feel like your voices were heard yesterday?” asked WREG’s Elise Preston.

“Absolutely, and if it wasn't, we're going to keep speaking out because we're right and it’s fair,” replied Montgomery.

Not everyone is on board with school vouchers in Tennessee.

State Representative Johnnie Turner and the NAACP are publicly against them.

Turner released a statement to News Channel 3 saying, “Vouchers have never been proven to work around the country wherever they have been tried. They do not improve student outcomes, and they clearly are meant to attack and weaken public schools.”

Unions, which represent public school teachers, also oppose the vouchers.