Representative defends last-minute school voucher vote

Posted at 4:34 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 22:24:39-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Representative Jason Zachary from Knoxville took time to elaborate why he changed his vote on the controversial ESA bill on the House floor.

Zachary received backlash for his last-minute decision, even being called the "Judas among us," by Rep. Jason Powell on Twitter.

We have a Judas among us. This was done like a banana republic. Embarrassing for Tennessee.— Jason Powell (@JasonLPowell) April 23, 2019

Zachary says he's just trying to do what's best for his district, adding that his county was just hit hard with a loss in BEP funding for him to allow ESAs to happen.

Originally a 'no' vote on vouchers, Rep. Zachary changed his vote after speaker Glen Casada held the vote for 40 minutes because it was tied up.

He says he was promised Knox County would not be in the ESA bill should a compromise be made with the senate and brought back to the house.

Some questioned if Zachary had reached a deal to gain funding for Knox County schools. However, he says the change was only because he believe Knox County would've been hit too hard by ESAs.

"For the last three weeks, I've been in negotiation with the speaker, with the governors office. I've met with commissioner McWhorter twice, in an effort to find out how we can get that funding. But no, I have not received any funding. I have not received a promise of any funding. I know why that rumor's out there, because Knox county is short $5.7 million," explained Zachary.

When asked what he thought about the rest of the state being in the ESA program, Zachary said he did think it was a good idea for counties like Davidson and Shelby counties. Most lawmakers for those counties voted against the ESA plan.

Teachers, parents and staff have protested the proposed program, they were among several that voiced concerns of the negative impacts it would have on public schools.