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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Legislators Raise the Stakes for Illegal Aliens in Tennessee

During Tennessee’s 2017 legislative session, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and freshman Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville), sponsored a bill that allows judges to “enhance,” or increase the usual sentence for a criminal conviction when the person is also an illegal alien. The bill was passed 28 -3 in the Senate with Democrats Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) and Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) voting in support of the measure. On the House side, the bill passed 66 – 17 with Republican Mark White (R-Memphis) registering as “present and not voting.” Since 2015, White has sponsored multiple bills aimed at granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens. With the passage of the Norris/Gant bill, Tennessee law now states that: If appropriate for the offense and if not already an essential element of the offense, the court shall consider, but is not bound by, the following advisory factors in determining whether to enhance a defendant’s sentence: (28)  At the time the instant offense was committed, the defendant was illegally or unlawfully in the United States. Sentencing enhancements are discretionary so there is no guarantee that judges in Tennessee will apply the new law.  

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State Senator Todd Gardenhire Complains The Tennessee Star Poll Asked About Illegal Immigrants, Not ‘Children of Undocumented Immigrants’

Tennessee Star

Stung by the results of the recent Tennessee Star Poll  showing 84 percent of likely Republican primary voters oppose providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students, State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), sponsor of two bills that would accomplish precisely that objective, complained on Monday that the poll asked about illegal immigrants rather than “children of undocumented immigrants who are brought to this country when they are very young.” “The question was worded in such a way to get the result they wanted,” Gardenhire complained to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The Tennessee Star Poll question asked likely Republican voters the following: “In 2018, the Tennessee General Assembly is expected to reconsider a bill to provide in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students. Do you support or oppose providing in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students?” 84 percent of Tennessee likely Republican primary voters disapproved of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. A resounding 68.9 percent strongly disapproved, the poll results showed: 68.9% Strongly Disapproved 15.5% Somewhat Disapproved 5.9% Somewhat Approved 5.2% Strongly Approved 4.5% Not Sure/don’t know “Gardenhire said that’s misleading,” the Times Free Press reported: He said “we’re not giving them anything” because the students live in Tennessee and would pay the…

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State Rep. Mark White Bringing Failed Bill for Illegal Immigrant In-State Tuition Back to Committee

Rep. Mark White’s (R-Memphis) second bill, HB660, that if left unamended, would have allowed the governing boards of state colleges and universities to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students, failed in the House Education committee yesterday, but he has put it back on next Tuesday’s calendar and will ask the committee to reconsider its action. Republicans Jimmy Matlock, Terri Lynn Weaver, Ron Lollar, Roger Kane, Debra Moody and Dawn White, voted “no” on the bill. Republicans Eddie Smith, Mark White and Harry Brooks, along with all Democrats on the committee, voted “yes,” except that Democrat Rep. John DeBerry was absent when the vote was taken making it more than likely that the bill would have passed had he been present. Mark White could have chosen to roll his bill until all members were present to vote, but chose not to and let the vote move forward. According to sources at the legislature, Rep. DeBerry, a proponent for giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition, is pushing for a motion to reconsider White’s bill. It is not clear whether any motion to reconsider White’s bill will require a two-thirds vote of committee members, which would take ten votes to revive the bill, or…

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