Advocating public education are, facing front from left, Pamela Bright, Kendall Azzariti and Deborah Shaw. At right is Sue Ogg, TEA’s UniServ coordinator in four counties. Photo by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

COLUMBIA, TN — Educators and public school advocates on Monday demonstrated at Maury County’s Courthouse to protest state legislation for school vouchers.

“We’re here to let Scott Cepicky and Michael Curio know that their constituents want them to vote no on ESA (Education Savings Account) vouchers,” said Sue Ogg of the Tennessee Education Association.

The next day, a voucher bill was approved by the state House on a 50-48 vote.

Calls to State Reps. Cepicky (R-Culleoka) and Curio (R-Dickson) for comment on ESA vouchers were not returned by dawn Wednesday. Protestors here and in Nashville said vouchers take money from public schools.

“I sat with Cepicky last year” during a political forum hosted by the Maury County Education Association (MCEA), Spring Hill Middle School teacher Stephanie Sparks Newline said. “He said he’d never vote for something that would pull money from public schools.”

Gov. Bill Lee campaigned for vouchers. They could start in fall 2021 with up to 5,000 students and grow to 15,000 students in five years, reports. More middle-class than low-income families might get an average of $7,300 in taxpayer funds annually to pay for private education, the website reports.

“Stop the pilfering of public money for private schools,” Columbia Central High School teacher Jennifer Enk said.

MCEA President David Huebner said Maury County’s school board criticized vouchers as bad for public schools and said so in a letter to Lee.

TEA member Pamela Bright attended the rally to support public education.

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...