When the Senate Education Committee last week passed SB1014, Sen. Todd Gardenhire’s bill to make illegal immigrant students living in Tennessee, eligible for in-state college tuition and at the same time, they not only voted to violate the Tennessee “Eligibility Verification for Entitlements Act,” they also turned their back on vulnerable students who need protection from predators in school bathrooms.
SB1014 passed in the committee on a 7 to 2 vote.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis), Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) all voted yes to give illegal immigrant students in-state-tuition and violate existing Tennessee state law.
Sen. Joey Hensley (R- Hohenwald) and Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) voted no.
During that same committee meeting, after Chairman Dolores Gresham announced “seeing no motion” to hear SB771, Sen. Beavers’ bill designed to protect the privacy of K-12 students in Tennessee, Chairman Gresham gaveled down the bill and dismissed Sen. Beavers. This meant that Sen. Beavers was not given an opportunity to explain her bill nor was the committee able to debate its merits, a confusing outcome to say the least since the same committee members last year passed the same bill last year when SB2387 was sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell.
Senators that voted yes last year were Crowe, Gresham, Gardenhire, Haile, Hensley, Kelsey and Tracy.
Last year on the House side, Rep. Susan Lynn took the bill off notice before it could proceed for a vote on the House floor.
The votes in the Senate Education Committee this year on both the in-state tuition bill and the bathroom privacy bill could arguably be thought of as being more focused on economics instead of the substantive merits of the bills.
On the in-state tuition bill, Sen. Jim Tracy stated his focus as wanting to help UT Martin fill their open seats because “we need more students in college…we are not at full capacity now…I’m just trying to reach more students.”
The 2015-2016 Tennessee Higher Education Fact Book shows that both the UT and TB Board of Regents universities and the community colleges total enrollments from 2010 – 2015, are trending down.
Regarding the bathroom privacy bill, last year Sen. Tracy defended his vote for the bill based simply on using “common sense” and that, “you’ve got to go to the bathroom of the gender you belong, and that’s it.”
Since the Senate Education Committee’s vote last year, a similar bathroom privacy bill passed in North Carolina resulting in a campaign urging businesses to boycott the state. Almost one year later, however, the boycott has failed to negatively impact North Carolina’s economy or it’s favorable rating as fourth in the nation for attracting and expanding businesses.
HB888, the House bathroom privacy bill is sponsored by Rep. Mark Pody and is on the calendar today in the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee.
Because Sen. Beavers’ bill was not voted on by the Education Committee, the Senate rules would allow the bill to be brought back to the committee for consideration.