Democrats have ‘serious concerns’ about voucher advocate as director of Fiscal Review Committee

News release from House Democratic Caucus:
Nashville, TN: House Democrats expressed serious concerns today with the appointment of Jeff Spalding as the Executive Director of Fiscal Review—the department which assigns a financial cost to each piece of legislation.

“Our fiscal review directors have a long history of being reliable, non-partisan individuals,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “While we might disagree with their assessments, we’ve never worried about them having an agenda. That’s why this appointment is so concerning.”

The new director comes to the General Assembly from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a pro-voucher group whose self-stated mission is the privatization of “a major segment of the educational system.” The Friedman Foundation has a long history opposing public education, with many pro-privatization articles written by Mr. Spalding.

“The majority party has tried for three years to get a voucher program through the General Assembly with no success. My concern is that we now have a situation where the individual who assigns a fiscal note to that legislation has a well-known personal agenda. It’s really unprecedented.”

The director is jointly appointed by the Fiscal Review Committee. While the hiring of Mr. Spalding has been announced, he is still subject to confirmation by the entire Fiscal Review Committee when they meet next month.

“I certainly hope the members of the Fiscal Review Committee will take a hard look at the new director and make sure his only agenda is the fiscal health of our state.”

UPDATE/Note: The Tennessean has Spalding’s response:

“Did I work for an organization that advocates for school choice? Yes. Do I actually share the view that there are some benefits to expanded school choice? Sure,” Spalding said. “Will that impair my ability to analyze the fiscal impact of (a bill)? Not in the least.”

Spalding, who spent two decades in public policy in Indiana before joining the foundation, said he excels at this type of work.

“Any time you can elevate the public debate on important public policy matters and have a role in that, it’s exciting,” Spalding said Tuesday morning.