NAACP strongly opposes student voucher bill - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

NAACP strongly opposes student voucher bill

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

A proposed bill to provide options for students in low performing schools is being met with opposition and controversy as it makes its way through Senate committees.

The Memphis branch of NAACP shared fiery words against the current student voucher bill, which would basically provide some students with scholarships to attend private schools. 

Not only does Memphis NAACP strongly oppose the bill, the group calls it unconstitutional. Supporters of the bill, however, disagree.

"I think it's great, student-wise, because it definitely gives them more opportunities," said Stormi Clark, whose daughter would be directly affected by the bill if it passed. "With the general choice transfer program, it is a little rough if you can't get your kids to another part of town."

The fact that the bill would take current public school funds to create the voucher has Clark and her daughter thinking twice about it.

"I am concerned about how that would affect the local schools. Again, a lot of people may not be able to participate because if those funds are going somewhere else, you have to consider," Clark said.

NAACP released a statement expressing opposition of the bill, which appears to specifically target Shelby County Schools.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Memphis Branch strongly opposes school vouchers for Shelby County, one of the largest urban school districts in the state. As the state legislator debates the pilot program in committee on Wednesday, we want to be clear that we do not want it to pass.

The students, parents and community of Memphis and Shelby County deserve the best possible opportunities for their education and the best possible options for their futures without being victimized and disenfranchised via zoning conditions.  State Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown’s proposed bill to fund school vouchers for this area, diverts $18 million from our public school system for private schools.    Kelsey’s bill focuses on districts with at least 30 schools in the bottom 5 percent in the state in academic performance.  Shelby County School System is the only district that fits that specific criteria, which makes this bill “appear” to target a specific group.  That appearance also calls into question its constitutional merit and causes the NAACP Memphis Branch to determine among other points that this bill is not only possibly unconstitutional but definitely unfair.  If you want to pilot vouchers, do it in a small district to “test”, not ours!

Senator Brian Kelsey sponsored the legislation. He said the bill is meant to provide students with better educational opportunities. 

"The goal is to help these students who desperately [have] been stuck in these terrible schools for years to actually have the opportunity to go into a quality school," he said.

Senator Kelsey said the bill will be voted on by another committee next week. 

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