Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


Out-of-state special interests target our elections

In Tennessee, special-interest shadow groups have begun spending heavily in General Assembly primaries

They are at it again—national anti-public education groups are spending heavily in Tennessee General Assembly primaries. In 2016, these out-of-state groups, backed by billionaires like Betsy DeVos, spent millions in our state trying to defeat pro-public school candidates, only to see teachers and voters reject their slate of candidates. It was a huge victory for Tennessee public schools, and now we will need a similar effort in this primary season. 

“We see the privatization groups spend in districts across the state, backing primary candidates who fit their agenda. The good news is while we may not have their money, we have something more important—actual voters in every district and people who love their public schools,” said TEA Government Relations Director Jim Wrye. “It is time to battle for the future of public education in Tennessee. Every parent, teacher, and everyone else who cares for their public schools need to vote and tell others which candidate will defend and support public schools.” 

Tennesseans for Student Success, StudentsFirst, the Federation for Children and other shadow groups have begun spending heavily in the General Assembly primaries. 

“We are Tennessee teachers. There are no secrets or surprises in politics for us when it comes to these shadow groups. We are dedicated to making every primary where voucher groups are weighing in a referendum on public schools and whether they should be defended and supported, or undermined and weakened,” Wrye said. “United teachers are a threat to these shadow groups. Let’s make good on that threat by voting in record numbers in the primaries.”  

The good news is TEA has been polling on issues promoted by these shadow groups like vouchers for years. Tennesseans of all political stripes, in every grand division, including rural, urban and suburban voters, reject vouchers by a two-to-one margin. 

Polling in these districts also shows when TEA-FCPE, the defense fund for public schools, makes the choice between primary candidates, our candidates win with the support and turnout of members. 

“I am proud of our membership and organization standing up to these shadow groups in the primaries,” Wrye said. “When it comes to their privatization agenda, these groups will try and buy their way to victory. We will use our resources to open the eyes of primary voters and expose these groups.”

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