Saying she comes “from a long line of public school educators,” state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-District 6 including much of Concord) cast her third vote in eight years to defeat a bill providing taxpayer dollars for private school choice among public “failing school” students.
Among her “diverse” constituents, “I had astronomically more people contact me asking me to vote against it,” Massey said a couple of days after Tennessee General Assembly Senate and House leaders hammered out a comprise voucher bill, which targets the state’s two biggest counties, for GOP Gov. Bill Lee to sign.
However, for the sake of up to 15,000 public school children — mostly low income — in 48 failing schools in Shelby and Davidson counties, “In some respects I hope I could be wrong,” she added. “But I’m pleased it’s not going to Knox County. We don’t have any (failing) schools anymore.”
With each eligible student getting up to $7,300 under the program annually, “obviously, I don’t want money thrown away,” Massey said.
While saying “I’m not a fan of vouchers” and “I felt like public dollars ought to stay in public schools,” she added, “I do get that different kids need different things; they learn differently.
“So, hopefully, with some of these kids over in Davidson County and Shelby County, (vouchers) will make a positive difference (many) say it’s going to make,” she added.
Time will tell.
“We’re going to have three years to evaluate it before we do anything else on it,” Massey said.
However, from the public school funding side in Tennessee, “I think the bottom line is we need to look and see, fundamentally, what we can do to invest in early childhood education, K-through-(third grade),” Massey said. “Make sure every child is ready at grade level.”
Though not wishing to comment on the recent controversial House voucher voting process “because I don’t have firsthand experience,” Massey added, “it is easier when you are working with 32 other people (in the Senate), there’s better communication” versus any one state representative working with 98 others in the House.
In the end, “I received no pressure” to vote either way, Massey said.
About her family’s public school educator ties, Massey said, “It’s from my grandmother up in Scott County, to my sister, to several other family members and best friends.”
About her constituents, she added, “I serve such a diverse district, it doesn’t matter what I vote — somebody’s going to like it and somebody’s not.”