Right now, State Representative Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, says he’s a ‘no’ vote on Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s Education Savings Account bill.
But that is subject to change, Cepicky told The Tennessee Star Monday.
“Right now the governor is working on the legislation. I voiced some concerns about it, and he will get with his staff and look at my concerns and it will be used to tighten up the bill a little bit. As of right now, I am a no vote,” Cepicky said.
Lee is adding various amendments to address Cepicky’s concerns, the state representative said.
“I had some concerns with some of the language about income limitations. I had some concerns about the districts that are affected and students that are in that district as a whole, whether they went to a priority school or not and would have access to the ESA program. I was trying to figure out where he was coming from on that,” Cepicky said.
“It is a very complex bill, and we are trying to work through it because there are so many different parts to this bill. With the conversations I had with the governor today he was very informative. He was very open to listening. He was very passionate about the students and trying to help them out and just looking for input from the representatives.”
As The Tennessee Star reported, Tennessee students in urban cities could start escaping failing schools in fall 2021 through Lee’s proposed plan.
Some people, however, say the math does not add up.
Lee would spend about $25 million in fall 2021, with half going to families whose children transfer to private or other non-public schools and the remainder going to the districts they leave behind, according to a story on Chalkbeat. The ESAs could cost $125 million over five years.
Only 5,000 students would qualify in Year One, Chalkbeat said. Up to 15,000 students could qualify by 2025. One catch is that the failing districts, which are among the 10 percent bottom performers, would only receive the subsidy payments for three years.
The governor briefly addressed ESAs in his first State of the State address this month, as reported by The Tennessee Star.
The proposal would only be provided to five county school districts: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Shelby and Madison (including the city of Jackson), The Star reported on March 10. Also included would be the state’s Achievement School District of failing schools, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said.
As The Star previously reported, 5,000 students represent only about one-half of one percent of the state’s 975,000 students. All told, a little more than 314,000 students in those districts are eligible to apply to be among the maximum 5,000 students who can enroll in Year One. Parents would use a debit card loaded with the money to use for tuition or qualified expenses like tutoring.
The Daily Memphian reported that $7,300 per student would equal only about 3,400 students in 2020, quoting Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-TN-21).
As The Star reported last month, several of the House Republican candidates the left-leaning Tennessee Education Association PAC opposed in the August 2018 primaries ended up winning their race, including Cepicky Mark Cochran (Englewood), Rick Eldridge (Morristown), Sabi “Doc” Kumar (Springfield), Justin Lafferty (Knoxville), and Iris Rudder (Winchester).