Dyersburg City School Board makes resolution against Governor Lee’s voucher policies

Wednesday, February 7, 2024
School Board members voted unanimously to pass a resolution in opposition to Governor Lee’s voucher legislation. (l-r): Chairman Jim Coy Houston, Dr. Scott Self, Mike Hickman, Whitney Allmon, Courtney Patrick, and Gleyn Twilla
State Gazette photo/William Northcutt



The Dyersburg City Schools Board met Monday, February 5, at the Dyersburg Intermediate School (DIS). February’s regular meeting saw DIS Technology Coach/ Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Instructor Brenda Gibson present her STEM lab and some of her students to the board. Importantly, the meeting centered on the City Schools’ and School Board opposition to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s voucher/Education Freedom Act” initiatives.

Board members present included Courtney Patrick, Mike Hickman, Chairman Jim Coy Houston, Whitney Allmon, and Gleyn Twilla. Carlos Doss was unable to attend. From Dyersburg City Schools were Director Kim Worley, Curriculum Coordinator Seela Newbill, Federal Projects Assistant Margaret Castleman and Federal Programs Director / Personnel Director Julie Norville. DIS Principal Lenita Click attended along with several staff and faculty members.

The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance and the approval of consent items, including a Dyersburg High School (DHS) Cheer Team trip to Fort Walton Beach, a DHS Dance Team trip to Orlando, Florida, and a change in mileage pay from 58 cents to 67 cents per mile. Self made a motion to approve, Allmon seconded, and the motion carried.


Next up, Gibson reported on STEM activities at DIS, saying, “This year, we’ve had a good time, learned lots. We focused on...foundational skills.” She said “These kids have the VEX kits that build different kinds of robotics. the 4th graders had built cars that move in different ways…” She noted that “5th graders made replicas of the Mars Rover that they coded with their computers.” Additionally, she said students were learning about and using 3D printers.

Click reported, “100%...of our students come to the STEM lab. Our 3rd graders get about 26 days a year; our 4th graders get 46 days a year; and 5th graders get 40 days a year…They’re getting as much time as we can do.” She also mentioned that the school has a robotics club that meets two Fridays per month. Additionally, she said that the Teaching Assistants rotate though the lab so that they can help with the instruction. She spoke of further plans to extend the STEM program.

STEM Instructor Brenda Gibson and DIS students
State Gazette photo/William Northcutt

Resolution against Governor Bill Lee’s proposed “Education Freedom Act” (vouchers) legislation

Worley introduced a draft copy of a “Resolution Opposing Governor Lee’s Education Freedom Act.” She stated that part of the resolution’s purpose is to express that “Public dollars should stay in public schools.”

On November 28, 2023, the State of Tennessee released a statement from Lee which read, “Tennessee’s Education Freedom Scholarships will empower parents with the freedom to choose the right education for their child, while also giving them a say in how their taxpayer dollars are invested. In the coming months, I look forward to working with Tennessee families and members of the General Assembly to accomplish this historic legislative initiative and establish Tennessee as a leader in providing choice for families while also striving toward the best public school system in the country.”

In his Monday, February 5, 2024, State of the State Address to the General Assembly and Tennessee citizens, Lee said that his proposed budget includes $144,000 earmarked for vouchers, “scholarships” for students attending private schools.

Worley said that “[Our schools] admit all students, and I think that’s important to note, and no student is denied when they come into Dyersburg City Schools, regardless of their backgrounds.” She added that private schools and their teachers should have the same accountability as public schools and their teachers.

Self asked how many systems had passed similar resolutions to theirs. Worley replied, “I don’t know right off the top of my head, but I’m going to say that in the neighborhood of about 50 schools systems across the state.” She added, “The resolution will go to the TSBA (Tennessee School Board Association) first and then to the legislators after that.”

Self stated, “It’s important to know that if the Governor has his way with this legislation, if ‘Johnny’ isn’t meeting certain standards within his public school system, his parents can remove him and take him over to XYZ private school, and the money that the state allots each student goes with Johnny. That money leaves the public school system, goes into the private school system, where they [students] are not tested, are not held to standards whatsoever. And that’s that.” He added, “This is me speaking, not Dyersburg City Schools—this is an insane piece of legislation that the Governor’s pushing, and I don’t think we can make enough racket.”

Worley averred and said, “Parents already have choice…freedom” to send students to whatever educational system they want.”

Self followed up, saying “I would encourage anybody who knows [Tennessee State Representatives] Rusty Grills, or Chris Hurt…or [Tennessee Senator Ed] Jackson, or anybody else for that matter who’s involved in the legislative process, to express your opinion. It is almost like there’s a defined agenda to ruin public education in the State of Tennessee.”

Worley concluded that she had teachers with her at the meeting and “They do a fantastic job of teaching all of our students.”

Twilla mentioned that there were similar initiatives outside public education, “And each time, the ultimate goal is to create for-profit businesses, and they want to turn a large part of our education into for-profit businesses. Only a select few will be able to go to these schools.” Twilla said he suspected that a lot of private institutions were using the moment to raise tuitions and that this is detrimental to those attending private schools. Worley affirmed saying that “There’s research…that show that this exactly what has happened.” She mentioned Arizona’s model specifically.

Self made a motion to approve the resolution, and Hickman seconded, the motion carrying unanimously.

The resolution read:

“WHEREAS, Article XI, Section 12, of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, requires that the General Assembly ‘shall provide for the maintenance, support, and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools; and

“WHEREAS, public schools that provide a free and appropriate education for all, including students with disabilities and other needs, require all available state funding in order to continue to improve without necessitating an increased burden on local taxpayers or reducing services for students; and

“WHEREAS, vouchers divert public funds from the many who attend public schools to supplement those families who have already chosen a different option for the education of their children; and

“WHEREAS, the Dyersburg City Board of Education enthusiastically supports the vision, beliefs, and goals of Dyersburg City Schools and believes that public funds should be directed to public schools for the betterment of the student population and the community overall.; and

“WHEREAS, Dyersburg City Schools educates and serves every eligible student in our community who wishes to enroll regardless of background, needs, or ability, and each student receives the best possible educational opportunities in order to graduate prepared to enter a postsecondary institution or the workforce; and

“WHEREAS, all educational institutions receiving public funds should have the same accountability and performance reporting expectations so that parents and the public may better understand the use and efficacy of those public funds: and

“WHEREAS, school choice already exists via transfers, home schools, private schools, and county schools. (sic)

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Dyersburg City Schools Board of Education hereby expresses opposition to the Governor’s “Education Freedom Act” as well as any other voucher or Education Savings Account legislation due to the detrimental impacts these programs will have on our students, schools, and community, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Dyersburg City Schools Board of Education urges the Tennessee General Assembly to consider the effects that Education Savings Accounts will have on local school districts and to instead seek out ways to support and strengthen public schools throughout the state.”

Further business and successes

Newbill took a moment to discuss a federal rating of Dyersburg City Schools, especially in light of challenging State letter grades of area schools. She noted that the federal ratings top designations were earned by Dyersburg Middle School (Reward) and DHS (Exemplary). She pointed out “Our strongest areas” were 3-12 achievement, the graduation rate, chronic absenteeism, and growth in grades 6-12.

The board was presented with a list of “Student Successes”—DIS Spelling Bee Winners: 1st place, Ben Davis 2nd place, Tanner Riney; and 3rd place, Brielle Stenmark. “Trojan Leaders of the Week”: January 3—Jayla Hunter, Olvia Henderson, and Thomas Nolen; January 15—Aidyn Carthen, Ka’Renia Keeling, and Star Bailey; January 29—Madisyn Washington, Warren Klinkhammer, and Cason Boyd. Dyersburg City Schools also congratulated Ally Hinson “for winning the Creed Competition for FFA” and added that Hinson “will advance to the regional contest on February 8. At that, the meeting adjourned, and Board members met with students, who gave demonstrations in the STEM lab.

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  • I applaud EVERY SINGLE ONE of them for doing this. Lee's voucher program actively harms public schools and only benefits private institutions and the finances of those overseeing them. I have no issue with private schools being an option, but this program actively harms public school systems, regardless of how the private sector seeks to dress it up. Public students should not be sacrificed at the financial altar.

    -- Posted by Mr. World on Wed, Feb 7, 2024, at 3:42 PM
  • Y'all the ones that keep voting for him duh huh!

    -- Posted by Keepup76! on Wed, Feb 7, 2024, at 8:10 PM
  • Job well done!

    Vouchers are a SCAM!

    -- Posted by cdishman1 on Thu, Feb 8, 2024, at 12:33 AM
  • I don't think I can say it any better than Dr. Self, “It’s important to know that if the Governor has his way with this legislation, if ‘Johnny’ isn’t meeting certain standards within his public school system, his parents can remove him and take him over to XYZ private school, and the money that the state allots each student goes with Johnny. That money leaves the public school system, goes into the private school system, where they [students] are not tested, are not held to standards whatsoever. And that’s that. This is me speaking, not Dyersburg City Schools. This is an insane piece of legislation that the Governor's pushing, and I don't think we can make enough racket."

    Tell Rusty Grills that we don't want vouchers!!

    -- Posted by cjstark on Thu, Feb 8, 2024, at 4:32 PM
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