State Representative Scott Cepicky: Tennessee’s Public Education Has Opportunity to Be Improved Through Both Universal School Choice Program and Reform Measures

MPL and Cepicky Interview

Tennessee State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) said the Tennessee House version of the universal school choice bill that failed to pass the General Assembly earlier this year is “eerily similar” to the Wisconsin school choice bill that passed the state’s legislature nearly 14 years ago.

Cepicky said he recently traveled to Wisconsin to meet with state legislators and study the legislation the Badger State passed to reform its public education system, which made the state go from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best in terms of education.

“Knowing the things that we’re doing in education reform and then studying what Wisconsin’s done, a lot of the things we’re doing are eerily similar. If you look at the House version, we had things on school choice that would open it up statewide but had some growth parameters in it to make sure it didn’t get financially out of hand. It did exclude the homeschoolers, which they wanted, and put some buffers in there with private schools to protect them and their integrity. The one thing they also did was what we were trying to do which was to do some major transformational reform in public education. Less testing, less evaluations, more teaching time,” Cepicky explained on Friday’s edition of The Michael Patrick Leahy Show.

“When [Wisconsin] instituted the school choice and this transformational change in public education, they were 38th and languishing like we are. Then, they reached a plateau and just got stuck. When they opened it up to school choice and they did the transformational reforms in public education, in five years they were in the top ten in the country,” Cepicky added.

Cepicky explained the specific similarities the Tennessee House’s version of Governor Bill Lee’s school choice bill had compared to Wisconsin’s program.

“The bill that we were running in the General Assembly this year was eerily similar to what they ran 14 years ago – Invoking school choice, putting some parameters on growth on it, making sure homeschoolers weren’t included, putting the parameters on private schools to protect them, but the transformational changes that they made in public education changed the whole deal for them,” Cepicky said.

One of the concerns during the most recent legislative session of the Tennessee General Assembly regarding a school choice plan was the different approaches both legislative chambers took to the bill.

While the Senate introduced a cut-and-dried version of the governor’s plan, the House version included additional incentives unrelated to the governor’s school choice plan, including public education reform.

Cepicky acknowledged the importance of including public education reform measures along with a universal school choice program. However, he said that such reforms would likely be introduced in a separate bill from the governor’s school choice proposal.

“I think what you’ll see is an agreement going in there about the language. Now, I would probably be willing to bet you that a lot of the public school reforms we wanted to do will be run in a separate bill,” Cepicky said.

“Let’s be clear here. The problem with the public educational system is the system that we’ve created. It’s tying the hands of teachers. It’s tying the hands of students. We’ve got to get more freedom and autonomy into these classrooms to bring the innovative and creativity back into them. I think that’s what our intention is going to be, which is not to get rid of public schools – which is what we’ve been accused of doing – but to accentuate it to where now, the dynamics that happen in homeschool, dynamics that happen in private school, now public school can take advantage of those dynamics and really start to get the educational system we want,” Cepicky added.

Watch the full interview:

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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Kaitlin on X / Twitter.






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3 Thoughts to “State Representative Scott Cepicky: Tennessee’s Public Education Has Opportunity to Be Improved Through Both Universal School Choice Program and Reform Measures”

  1. Savanna Johanson

    School choice/ vouchers = expanded government control over private school and homeschool students and families. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. If you want to lower the financial burden on families that CHOOSE alternative schooling options, fight for tax deductions for educational materials.

  2. Randy

    Cut public education funding in half, eliminate the legislative burden, the administrative burden and the lefty brain washing.


    Why do these people keep pushing the lie of vouchers offering school choice??? TN already has school choice. A parent can send their child to a public school, charter school, private school, religious school or home school. What education choice do we not have in TN?? What this really should be called is the WE WANT THE TAX PAYER to foot the bill for a parents choice.” The problem with education is not money and will not be solved with money. What these legislators do not understand is that vouchers are how they will eventually suck EVERY child into the federal system. They are being lied to and deceived by these snake oil salesment from AFP and American Federation for Children. Part of Common Core (and YES TN still has Common Core in every public/charter school) was to insure that ALL students were taught the same thing and they meant ALL children. Vouchers are the funding mechanism to make that happen. Oh of course not at first because they have to capture enough children first. But eventually these schools that take the vouchers will have to comply with the federal/state rules. Look at Charter schools. Parents were told there were private schools (which they are not). They were told the education would be superior to the public school. It is not. Charters MUST adhere to all the same rules as the traditional public schools because they ARE public schools. There is only one fix. GET TN OUT from under the federal government and then go out and find what works and implement it TN. A before it solld their children out for money was the top performing state in the NAEP for years. The woman that made that happen (Dr. Sandra Stotsky) offered her MA program to any state that wanted it and it would be at no cost. The problem was that her program did not come with millions of dollars. Get back to basics. Get rid of all the social mumbo jumbo and teach our kids how to read using 100% phonics, teach them how to write cursive (how many parents know cursive is a law in TN but most teachers do not teach it because they cannot write in cursive), real American and Tennessee history. The original intent of our Constitution both US and TN Constitution. Teach REAL math instead of this CC crap. CC Math and English was proven to be a complete disaster by experts in the field of standards. If we got back to education and got out from under the thumb of the federal government we would save money on education.