I don't have a copy of the school voucher bill that has been passed by the state legislature, but as explained to me, the bill has the ultimate potential to cost the award winning Germantown Municipal School District millions of dollars--dollars that will likely have to be made up by City taxpayers in the future. And that apparently could happen without a single student opting to leave the system in favor of using a voucher for a private school!
While Sam Stockard of the Daily Memphian asked the right questions of Brian Kelsey and other Republicans, he may not have asked all the right people. From the Daily Memphian
Asked if funding for the Germantown Performing Arts Center amphitheater, known as the Grove at GPAC, was a reward for his vote in support of the governor’s education savings account bill on Thursday, Kelsey said, “I find that to be a highly offensive question. We don’t operate that way.”
Furthermore, according to the paper, "Republican leaders" reported that such trade-offs do not go on with important bills.
Oh, really? Sometimes all we need to do is look at some different reporting. According to Pork or politics? Behind the scenes as Tennessee voucher-backers lobbied House members to pass bill in the Nashville Tennessean, both David Hawk-R of Greeneville and Bob Ramsey-R of Maryville, who voted against the voucher bill, reported being approached and asked what they wanted in exchange for their votes.
Do we believe the anonymous "Republican leaders" sources reported in the Daily Memphian, or do we believe the named Republican sources in the Tennessean who voted against the voucher bills?
And, if Brian Kelsey did not get a little something (such as a $2.5 million dollar grant for GPAC) in return for his vote, wasn't he being remiss in his representation of Germantown?
Brian Kelsey's largest campaign contributions can be found here. One thing I noticed is that the largest contribution, $11,000, was from BOW-PAC, a PAC started by Bo Watson, a state senator from Chattanooga. Is this pot of money just another way of keeping Republican legislators in line? Reading between the lines, it appears so from this article. Oh, and guess what? Yet another Republican state senator, Yager, R-Kingston, has his own PAC, KEYPAC, which contributed $5,500 to Kelsey. Apparently it is a "thing" now for Republican Senators to have their own PACs. Where is all this money coming from? In 2011, Bill Haslam signed a bill allowing corporate contributions to PACs.
Kelsey also received $5,450 from "The American Federation for Children", a pro-voucher organization. StudentsFirst PAC contributed $5000 to Kelsey. StudentsFirst was begun by Michelle Rhee, the controversial ex-leader of Washington DC schools, and an advocate for school vouchers. Tennessee First, a PAC started by two lobbyists, gave him $3000.
In a post on Twitter, Gabby Salinas, who lost a close election to Brian Kelsey, reported that the only votes that Kelsey made against school vouchers was in an election year.
Now it is up to the citizens to decide: Was our award winning GMSD sold down the river by Brian Kelsey in favor of a single grant to GPAC?
There are plenty other characters to blame in this mess, mainly Governor Bill Lee, who it seems forced this bill on only two counties, Shelby and Davidson. Guess what? The rural counties know better than to starve their school systems of funding.
Gabby Salinas in her Twitter account pointed out that a clause was added to the bill which disallows lawsuits against the state by Boards of Education over this bill. That clause likely will be tested in court if this passes.
House votes (from Salinas Twitter account)
The bill goes to a conference committee now, as different versions were passed by the House and Senate.