School Privatizers Join the PAC Game in Tennessee

Back in July, I wrote a post about a newly-created political action committee (PAC) that seemed to be formed by Tennesseans for Student Success. You may recall that Tennesseans for Student Success is the dark money group behind a serious of insidious attacks on any legislator who opposes school privatization.

So, anyway, now they have a cheerily named PAC. Team Kid PAC, they’re calling it. Here’s more from the email they sent announcing this new venture:

Our state has made historic gains in education — twice being named the fastest improving in the nation — but you and our network of parents, teachers, community leaders, and volunteers know we can do better. If we want a better future for our children, we have to elect better leaders. That’s why we formed Team Kid PAC.

The political action committee of Tennesseans for Student Success, we will serve as the ONLY organization that can and will effectively challenge any elected official or candidate who fails to put Tennessee’s students first — regardless of their political party.

Sounds pretty great, right? I mean, they start out the email with a pretty awesome question:

Do you want to secure effective education for all Tennessee students?

I mean, who is saying no to that? Even Gov. Bill Lee claims to want to secure an effective education for all Tennessee students. Heck, the team over at SCORE often claims they want effective education despite any evidence their presence in our state (or policy advocacy) has improved anything except for their payroll.

Here’s the reality: Tennesseans for Student Success spends their time and money attacking lawmakers who stand up for public schools. If you are not on the pro-privatization train, Tennesseans for Student Success is coming after you. Now, they’ll be doing it under the auspices of Team Kid.

Here’s the other reality: Tennessee needs at least $1.7 billion to make our school funding formula adequate. Tennessee has a huge surplus with even more money on the way. Tennessee has a governor who has no plans to use the current surplus to invest in schools.

So, what’s Team Kid PAC/Tennesseans for Student Success saying about Lee’s policy agenda?

Here are some tweets from them (and a bonus from SCORE CEO Dave Mansouri, a teammate of the Team Kid PAC team):

“During the special session we allocated almost $43M for teacher pay raises. This was a step in the right direction, and the budget I’m submitting for your consideration this week recommends an additional $120M be set aside for teacher compensation.” — @GovBillLee #TNSOTS

- TN Student Success (@tnstudent) February 9, 2021

On the heels of historic accomplishments that addressed TN’s literacy crisis and took steps to ensure a quality public education for every student, @GovBillLee set a vision for what it means to prepare our students for life beyond the classroom. #TNSOTS

- TN Student Success (@tnstudent) February 9, 2021

When Lee proposed an underwhelming raise for teachers:

By proposing an extra $120M in teacher pay, @GovBillLee is working to provide stability for our teachers, promote Tennessee’s ability to attract & retain the best educators, & work to give all students the committed, effective teacher they deserve. #TNSOTS

- TN Student Success (@tnstudent) February 9, 2021

And here’s Mansouri, acting like a happy cheerleader after his team scores a touchdown even though they’re still down by 50 points:

Watching @GovBillLee give this year’s State of the State address. Great to hear Governor Lee’s commitment to continued investment in both K-12 and higher education and increases in educator compensation. #tnedu

- David Mansouri (@davemansouri) February 9, 2021

Oh, and about all those so-called “impressive” gains:

The Real Story of NAEP in Tennessee

Regression to the Mean

So, just watch out for Team Kid PAC and their gang of seemingly happy marauders out to derail the legislative career of anyone who dares stand and fight for Tennessee’s public schools.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Originally published at on February 19, 2021.

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN

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