Tensions growing between supporters, opponents of school vouchers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Both opponents and supporters of a state bill for school vouchers gathered outside the Shelby County Board of Education Monday.

"Vouchers at their core are an abandonment of public education," said opponent Amber Sherman with Organizers for Action.

"While we support public education and public funding, we just think that the students need more options," said supporter Roxie Nunnally with Lewis-Help Today Foundation.

The disagreement stemmed from the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act, House Bill 1049, that state leaders are discussing in Nashville.

It would provide taxpayer money to send some students to private school.

Eligible students would have to be zoned or enrolled in a school that's in the bottom 5 percent in the state, and households have to meet requirements for free or reduced lunches.

If more applications came in than available spots, the department would conduct a random selection process.

School Board members Stephanie Love and Mike Kernell said the School Board opposes vouchers.

"If you have 30 students and one uses a voucher to leave the classroom, then that classroom has lost $8,000," Kernell said.

"There are a lot of empty questions that nobody wants to answer," Love said. She said she wanted to know if private schools' names would change once they began accepting taxpayer money.

The full finance committee will meet in Nashville Tuesday. Many Memphis groups, including the Memphis Shelby County Education Association, which is the local teacher's union, plan to be there.


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