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.

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GOP Candidate for TN House District 65 Lee Reeves: ‘Yes, I’m Voting for Governor Lee’s Universal School Choice’

Lee Reeves and MPL

Real estate investor and attorney Lee Reeves, who is running in the August 1 Republican primary election for Tennessee State House District 65, sat down with The Tennessee Star’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Leahy on Wednesday to discuss his stance on different issues affecting the state.

House District 65 is currently represented by State Representative Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), who announced he would not be seeking reelection to the seat.

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Gov. Bill Lee Confirms He’s ‘Engaged’ with Republican Candidates to Determine School Choice Stance Ahead of Primary Elections

Bill Lee

Governor Bill Lee confirmed in a Monday press conference that he is “engaged” with Republican candidates to determine their stance on school choice following the defeat of his Education Freedom Scholarship Act, which would have provided 20,000 Education Savings Accounts for Tennessee students.

Lee said he has “met with several candidates, some who are in open seats; some who are incumbents,” with the governor specifically asking the candidates for their stances on “what I’m talking about is education freedom and choice for parents.”

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Florida’s Public Schools Close as School Choice Takes Off

School with students learning

As Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed school choice initiatives, leading to a spike in charter and private school enrollments, public schools are shutting down.

Across the state, public school enrollment is declining. Duval County Public School District, the sixth-largest school district in Florida and 20th largest in the country, is now considering campus closures due to dramatic dips in their enrollment.

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TN-18 State Senate GOP Primary Challenger Chris Spencer Refuses to Answer If He’d Vote for Governor’s School Choice Bill If Elected

Chris Spencer

Chris Spencer, a Republican candidate challenging incumbent Tennessee State Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) in the August 1 TN-18 GOP primary, refused to answer whether he’d vote for or against Governor Bill Lee’s universal school choice bill during the next legislative session of the General Assembly if elected.

The governor’s school choice bill, called the Education Freedom Scholarship Act, failed to pass the General Assembly during the most recently convened session of the General Assembly.

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Georgia Senator Greg Dolezal Says Promise Scholarship Act Puts Parents in Charge Regarding School Choice

Greg Dolezal

Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), who sponsored Senate Bill 233, said that the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act puts parents in charge regarding school choice options for their children. The bill was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday.

Senator Dolezal told The Georgia Star News on Friday, “The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act will ensure that parents and children are at the center of the education decisions in Georgia. I am excited to empower parents to make decisions on education opportunities for their children that best fit their needs. We have seen a school choice wave sweeping the County, and we can add Georgia to the list of states where parents are in the drivers seat of control.”

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WTN’s Matt Murphy Calls Out State Rep. Todd Warner for Claim He Did Not Record or Know Who Recorded Phone Conversation with AFP’s Tori Venable Broadcast in NewsChannel5 Report by Phil Williams

Mark Warner and Tori Venable

Tuesday afternoon on the Matt Murphy Show, broadcast weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. on SuperTalk 99.7 WTN, host Murphy interviewed Tori Venable, executive director of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee, about AFP’s support for Governor Bill Lee’s universal school choice bill currently under consideration in The Tennessee General Assembly. During the interview, Venable criticized the reporting of Phil Williams in Monday evening’s broadcast on NewsChannel 5, which featured an interview with State Representative Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill), as well as a recording of a phone call between Williams and Venable that was obtained without Venable’s consent.

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Claiborne Thornton Says Governor Lee Did Not Consult with Homeschoolers While Crafting School Choice Bill

Claiborne Thornton, president of the Tennessee Home Education Association, said Governor Bill Lee did not consult with homeschool families before crafting his universal school choice bill, which is currently undergoing debate in the Tennessee General Assembly.

“The bill, the way it was written, the way it was crafted, was without any consultation from any homeschoolers,” Thornton explained on Tuesday’s edition of The Michael Patrick Leahy Show.

Thornton said particular objections to the bill surround the Tennessee Department of Education’s role in facilitating the program.

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Tennessee State Senator Joey Hensley Explains ‘Present’ Vote on School Choice Bill

Joey Hensley

Tennessee State Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) said he voted present on the State Senate’s version of Governor Bill Lee’s universal school choice bill this week in the education committee because he said he believed there needed to be “more discussion” on the bill before it advanced out of committee.

“I was present, not voting, because I felt like we needed more discussion in the education committee,” Hensley said on Thursday’s episode of The Michael Patrick Leahy Show.

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Tennessee House Education Committee Advances Bill for School Choice Expansion

School Work

Lawmakers in the Tennessee House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to advance legislation to expand school choice, moving forward the proposal announced by Governor Bill Lee in November.

Designed to create 20,000 new Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for Tennessee students next school year, HB 1183 passed the House Education Administration Committee with 12 votes in favor and seven votes against.

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Aaron Gulbransen, Michael Patrick Leahy Slam State Rep. Todd Warner’s Vote Against School Choice Bill

Todd Warner

Aaron Gulbransen, executive director of the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition, and Michael Patrick Leahy, editor-in-chief and CEO of The Tennessee Star, condemned Tennessee State Representative Todd Warner’s (R-Chapel Hill) vote against Governor Bill Lee’s proposed school voucher program.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers on the K-12 Subcommittee voted 6-2 to pass the House version of the governor’s school voucher program, which would make Education Freedom Scholarships worth $7,000 available to students in every county of the state.

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Corey DeAngelis Explains How School Choice Vouchers May Motivate Schools to Respect Parents’ Input as Competition Arises


Corey DeAngelis, a school choice activist and senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, detailed how implementing a universal school choice program in Tennessee could motivate public schools to respect and strive to meet parents’ expectations in order to compete with schools attracting families with vouchers.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers on the K-12 Subcommittee voted 6-2 to pass the House version of Governor Bill Lee’s proposed school voucher program, which would make Education Freedom Scholarships worth $7,000 available to students in every county of the state.

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Tennessee State Rep. Scott Cepicky Says Full Text of Governor Lee’s Universal School Choice Bill Expected to be Unveiled Next Week

Scott Cepicky

Tennessee State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), who chairs the Education Instruction Subcommittee, said Governor Bill Lee’s universal school choice bill, known as the Education Freedom Scholarship Act, will likely be revealed next week.

Cepicky said there was a meeting on Wednesday for the committee chairs and caucus members to go over the bill’s language, making tweaks to ensure the bill will “function properly” and is “constitutional.”

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Corey DeAngelis: Vermont Has Had a Successful School Choice Program Since 1869

School choice activist Corey A. DeAngelis joined Wednesday’s edition of The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy to discuss the future of school choice in the U.S., specifically in Democrat-run states.

Leahy kicked off the segment by noting how Vermont has the oldest operating school voucher program in the country’s history with its Town Tuitioning Program.

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Corey DeAngelis Says Tennessee School Choice Bill Would Allow Students to Escape ‘One Size Fits All System’

Classroom Learning

School choice activist Corey A. DeAngelis joined Wednesday’s edition of The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy to discuss a rally he, Robby Starbuck, and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) held in Nashville supporting Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s universal school choice plan, known as the Education Freedom Scholarship Act.

On Tuesday, DeAngelis, Starbuck, AFP, and other school choice advocates held a Rally for School Choice & Parents’ Rights at the state Capitol in support of the governor’s school choice plan.

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‘Civility is a Strength’: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Delivers Sixth State of the State Address Amid Anti-School Choice Jeers

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee held his sixth State of the State Address on Monday, outlining his vision for Tennessee for the next year and the remainder of his administration. After highlighting the shared history and heritage of Tennesseans, and the strong economic position of Tennessee, the governor highlighted school choice, artificial intelligence (AI), and a streamlined regulatory framework among his goals for 2024. “As we enter our sixth year of working together, the State of our State is strong, and resilient, and ready for the future, and that is thanks to the hard work of the people in this room.” Lee began, “But there is more work to do, the world around us is changing every day, brings new challenges, unique challenges, Tennesseans are counting on us to face those challenges with wisdom and discernment.” “I’ve got three years left, there’s a lot to do, and we cannot, should not slow down, not for a second,” the governor declared. Throughout Lee’s address, he was repeatedly interrupted by hecklers, who first became vocal as the governor announced his plans to expand school choice and public education funding in Tennessee. As he attempted to turn to a different subject, a heckler appeared…

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Commentary: School Choice Keeps Spreading


In just three years, the number of states with universal or near-universal private school choice programs has grown from zero to 10, and the number of students eligible for these programs has increased by 60%. According to the latest ABCs of School Choice – EdChoice’s comprehensive report about all matters pertaining to educational freedom—32 states (plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico) are using school choice as of 2023. Additionally, policymakers in 40 states debated 111 educational choice bills last year alone. Overall, approximately 20 million students—or 36% of all kids—are now eligible for some kind of private-choice program.

But what’s good for children and their families is problematic for the teachers’ unions and their fellow travelers. As such, on January 22—not coincidentally the beginning of National School Choice Week—the Partnership for the Future of Learning released a toolkit, maintaining that “voucher programs are “deeply rooted in segregation, racism, and discrimination.” The PFL, which is comprised of predominantly left-wing outfits—the National Education Association, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Learning Policy Institute, etc.—adds that private schools “do not have necessary accountability measures.”

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Draft Bill for Expansion of Tennessee School Choice Shows Scholarships Will be Available to All Students

The Tennessee Star obtained on Monday a draft of the forthcoming Education Freedom Scholarship Act previously announced by Governor Bill Lee in November.

Lee announced in November that he would champion new school choice legislation in 2024 that will ultimately allow all Tennessee families to choose where their children are educated.

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Commentary: Four Things People Can Do to Change the Culture in 2024

People Praying

Maybe I am on a new year high, but as I consider the West’s cultural renewal, I sense an optimism in the air I haven’t felt for years.

In 2023, we saw a growing public awareness about the dangers and futility of transgender surgery. Alongside that, many woke up to the hypocrisy of the climate alarmists. And building on the success of Roe v. Wade’s demise, many states have now passed heartbeat bills, providing robust protections for many of the nation’s unborn. Surprisingly, pollsters even picked up on a decline in support for same-sex relationships.

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Arizona Freedom Caucus Confirms Plan by Gov. Hobbs to ‘Dismantle’ School Choice is ‘Dead on Arrival’

The Arizona Freedom Caucus, parents, and activists rallied on Monday at the Arizona Capitol Lawn against the plan recently unveiled by Governor Katie Hobbs (D) they warned would “dismantle” Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), the popular school choice program that boasts more than 70,000 students. Organizers planned the rally to coincide with the first day of the 2024 legislative session in Arizona.

Arizona Freedom Caucus founder Senator Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), who spoke at the rally, told The Arizona Sun Times, “I have a message for Katie Hobbs on behalf of the Arizona Freedom Caucus and every legislative Republican: your attempt to destroy educational opportunities for more than 74,000 Arizona children is dead on arrival at the legislature.”

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Georgia Republicans Who Killed School Choice Legislation in 2023 May Stop Reforms Again

A group of Republicans in the Georgia State House who were responsible to killing a 2023 effort to increase school choice in the state will reportedly work to stymie the education reforms again in 2024, according to a Friday report.

In 2023, Republicans in the Georgia Senate successfully passed Senate Bill 233, which would have granted state funded vouchers of up to $6,500 for students in the bottom 25 percent of the state’s schools. The funding would have been removed from public schools at the same time, which rural Republicans claimed was unfair to students that did not leave the struggling schools.

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Arizona Lawmakers, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne Push Back of Gov. Hobbs’ ‘Half Cocked Attempt to Destroy’ the ESA Program

Tom Horne

Multiple Arizona lawmakers and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne have pushed back on the plan by Governor Katie Hobbs to place heavy restrictions on the state’s popular Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.

Hobbs on Wednesday revealed her plan to place a series of new restrictions on the ESA program, including new state requirements for private school educators and schools, additional scrutiny for ESA contracts before funds are dispersed, a ban on “price gouging,” “minimum standards” for schools, which would apparently be set by the state, and modified eligibility requirements for students, among other new requirements and reforms.

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Commentary: The Rapid Growth of Educational Freedom Is Unprecedented

According to the latest ABCs of School Choice  – EdChoice’s comprehensive report about all matters pertaining to education freedom – policymakers in 40 states have debated 111 educational choice bills in 2023, 79 percent of which related to education savings accounts. (ESAs allow parents to receive a deposit of public funds into a government-authorized savings account with restricted, but multiple uses. Those funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses, and other approved customized learning services and materials).

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Greatest Number of State Legislatures Pass School Choice Bills in 2023

Students and Teacher

Multiple legislatures across the country attempted to pass or passed some form of school choice legislation this year.

“Policymakers in 40 states debated 111 educational choice bills – 79 percent of which related to ESAs,” Robert Enlow, president and CEO of EdChoice, said when announcing the findings of a newly published EdChoice report, the “ABC’s of School Choice.”

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Gov. Bill Lee Unveils ‘Education Freedom Scholarship’ Bill for Universal School Choice in Tennessee at Event with Gov. Sarah Sanders

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) unveiled the Education Freedom Scholarship Act, which will offer education savings accounts (ESAs) for students in all 95 counties in the state, in a Tuesday event that featured Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) and included state lawmakers and school choice advocates.

Lee said the legislative proposal will establish statewide universal school choice, stressing at his Tuesday press conference that “a high quality education has the power to change a trajectory of a child’s life forever.”

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State Senator Heidi Campbell’s Private School Past, Recent Support Unveiled After She Accused School Choice Activist Corey DeAngelis of ‘Dumbing Down’ Voters

Tennessee State Senator Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) condemned school choice initiatives for “dumbing down” voters, but previously admitted to attending a private school, and was on the board of a private Montessori early childhood school that boasts a waiting list.

Campbell made the remarks on social media following an interaction with school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis, who questioned the lawmaker’s claim that the school choice legislation reportedly promoted by Governor Bill Lee “will destroy public [education] and raise your taxes.” Lee’s plan will reportedly allow some students whose families are 200 percent below the poverty line in Tennessee to attend a school of their choice, redirecting tax dollars in the process.

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Analysis: States Are Gearing Up for a School Choice Showdown in 2024

School choice is going to be a hot-button issue next year as several states are set to propose legislation expanding education options, while others are gearing up to defend against lawsuits claiming voucher programs are unconstitutional and an “existential threat” to public schools.

School choice advocates passed legislation in Nebraska, Florida, Ohio and other states in 2023, with a major victory in Oklahoma as well after the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved an application for a Catholic online school in June, the first religious charter school in the country. Several states are looking to follow their lead in 2024 and expand education options for parents, while others have become the target of lawsuits by public education advocates, who argue that voucher programs are unconstitutional.

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Kinder, Gentler Iowa Cattle Call of GOP Presidential Hopefuls Sees Ramaswamy, DeSantis, Haley Generate Most Buzz

The latest cattle call of GOP presidential contestants — sans former President Donald Trump — mainly maintained Iowa nice, a departure from last month’s first fiery primary debate and a similar Christian conservative event in July hosted by conservative talk show host lightning rod Tucker Carlson.

The 10 presidential candidates who appeared at Saturday’s Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Annual Fall Banquet and Presidential Town Hall took relatively few direct shots at their rivals.

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Commentary: The Economic Benefits of School Choice

It’s back to school for Florida students and many others across the country this week. The first days and weeks of a new school year are always filled with anticipation, adjustments, transitions and growth for parents and students. Yet, this school year’s “firsts” for an expanding pool of families also includes the first time that their children will have the resources and freedom to enroll in the school of their choice. The short and long-term consequences of these new opportunities aren’t just experienced within the four walls of a home or school building, or by the families now empowered to pursue them – the impact of education choice stretches across communities and economies, helping to unleash prosperity and growth that benefits everyone.

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Pennsylvania School Voucher Battle Heads Back to Campaign Trail

Though school choice supporters lost a budget fight over a $100 million voucher program, the next battle appears to be at the ballot box.

On Monday, the Commonwealth Partners PAC announced plans for a $10 million campaign “to elect school-choice lawmakers,” saying the group would “continue to fight for kids’ interest against special interests,” according to a press release.

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Poll Shows Voters in Battleground States Trust Republicans over Democrats on Education

A new EdTrends poll of voters in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada, shows that Democrats have given up what was once a double-digit lead on “trust in education” and are now lagging behind Republicans by three percentage points.

The poll revealing the historic shift was released Friday by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), an organization that lobbies for Democrat candidates and heads campaigns to achieve “educational equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.”

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State Senators Spar over School Choice in Pennsylvania

While the Pennsylvania budget stalemate remains, senators argued over the importance of school choice and increasing public school funding at a committee hearing in Reading.

The Senate Education Committee met Tuesday to discuss “student opportunities for success,” hearing from parents of children in public and private schools in Reading, as well as public school leaders of Reading School District.

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