Tennessee Democrats urge Gov. Lee to reallocate school voucher funds

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee Democrats are urging Governor Bill Lee to reallocate more than $35 million in state funds that were designated for the state’s school voucher program.

This comes after a Davidson County judge ruled the program was unconstitutional.

Democrats worry the governor may put the state’s budget deeper in the hole by fighting the ruling.

“We are in the worst financial crisis probably in…almost in the history of our state right now,” State Rep. Antonio Parkinson said.

Parkinson says the $35 million dollars that came out of Tennessee’s budget, and was headed to Governor Lee’s voucher program, needs to go back into public schools.

Parkinson says using state money to fight a “legal ruling” that stopped the voucher program, would be a slap in the face of Tennesseans.

“The monies that they are considering using for the appeal process or to ‘sit on’ until they get a ruling…or another ruling rather on this voucher program…these dollars belong to the taxpayers,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson says the voucher program, which unfairly targets Nashville and Memphis, is just another example of the governor’s failed educational experiments.

“At some point people need to stand up and let the state government know they are tired of being the ‘petri’ dish for their experiments in education and economics,” Parkinson said.

Other Democrats echoed Parkinson’s sentiments, saying Tennessee’s budget is facing a $514 million shortfall and funding for the voucher program should cease.

“This was bad law to begin with,” said Rep. Vincent Dixie. “It was passed under bad pretenses…it’s being pushed under bad pretenses. Now we have an opportunity to right the ship. Let’s right the ship, Governor.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has left a budget hole which dramatically affects our schools, both at the state and local level,” said Rep. Mike Stewart. “We need to take this voucher money, remove it from the budget and we need to use it to support our existing public schools.”

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