‘School Choice’ Lobby Spending Heavily in TN Legislative Races

With education issues high on the agenda for the upcoming legislative session, the Tennessean observes that two new groups that favor charter schools and vouchers have spent lavishly on Tennessee House and Senate races.
The Tennessee PAC affiliated with StudentsFirst, a Sacramento, Calif.-based organization led by former Washington, D.C., Chancellor of Schools Michelle Rhee, has pumped $376,266 into Tennessee this year. That sum includes contributions to a handful of local school board contenders in Nashville and Memphis but far more to candidates seeking state legislative seats.
Most of the recipients are Republicans. StudentsFirst’s Tennessee PAC, formed last year, spent $66,150 in the Volunteer State over the past month alone, according to financial disclosures submitted last week.
During the same four-week time frame, a PAC called Tennessee Federation for Children, a branch of a Washington organization that expanded to Tennessee this spring, accounted for $145,302 in contributions and other expenditures.
The group spent $248,539 in Tennessee altogether this year, with money going to direct mail efforts and to pro-voucher candidates.
“The hope is that we can get them elected and that we’ll form a very strong and committed educational ‘choice’ majority in the legislature,” said Malcom Glenn, communications director for the American Federation for Children. Its Tennessee PAC contributed $10,000 to the PAC of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, $7,200 to the PAC of House Speaker Beth Harwell and $2,500 to District 20 Senate candidate Steve Dickerson of Nashville, among a long list of others.
“We support all school options, including vouchers,” Glenn said.

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