Pro-School Choice Candidates Prevail Throughout Tennessee

10 solid victories for educational choice, despite well-funded special interest attacks from Tennessee arm of National Education Association

Nashville, TN (August 5, 2016) – The Tennessee Federation for Children, the state’s voice for educational choice, celebrates Tennessee’s primary election results as voters turned out in support of school choice candidates. Ten candidates supportive of school choice advanced to the general election with the support of the Tennessee Federation for Children PAC (TFC PAC). Not a single incumbent supporter of school choice was defeated, and one incumbent opposing school choice lost his seat after a tumultuous campaign.

  • In East Shelby County, incumbent State Rep. Curry Todd (HD 95) was defeated by pro-school choice candidate Mark Lovell. In June, internal polling found Todd favored to win despite a history of arrests, lobbyist scandals, and questions of residency. Despite a record of reckless behavior, the Tennessee arm of the National Education Association endorsed Rep. Todd and spent tens-of-thousands of dollars in teacher’s dues on mailers supporting his re-election. TFC PAC worked to educate voters on the facts about Curry Todd, the NEA, and as a result, late July polling found Todd down several points to pro-school choice Lovell. Notably, Lovell defeated Todd mostly in early voting, prior to  Todd’s high profile arrest.
  • In West Tennessee, pro-school choice incumbent, State Sen. Dolores Gresham (SD 26), withstood an onslaught of special interest attacks funded by the Tennessee Education Association. Gresham defeated Savannah Mayor Bob Shutt. TFC PAC endorsed Sen. Gresham due to her common sense approach to education and her no-nonsense attitude to the special interests who have created and perpetuate many of the problems facing the Tennessee public education system.
  • In Middle Tennessee, State Rep. Mike Sparks (HD 49)—who had previously supported the Tennessee Education Association on issues relating to teacher pay, evaluations, and TN Department of Education leadership—saw his support for them repaid with betrayal, when they sent out several mail pieces attacking him and supporting his opponent, school board member Aaron Holladay. Rep. Sparks won handily with 78 percent of the overall vote. TFC PAC supported Sparks because of his commitment to taking on the hard issues and listening to all sides of the debate.
  • On the Democratic side, State Rep. John DeBerry (HD 90) remained in his seat and continues to be one of the most outspoken supporters of education reform in the state. Rep. DeBerry has been attacked for supporting public charter schools, the achievement school district, and school choice. A PAC representing the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA) supported his opponent.

Pro-school choice incumbents who won their races despite attacks from the Tennessee arm of the National Education Association include:

  • State Rep. Courtney Rogers (HD 45) defeated school board member Beth Cox.
  • State Rep. Jerry Sexton (HD 35) soundly defeated school board member Jamie Acuff.
  • State Rep. Steve McManus (HD 96) defeated anti-school choice activist Price Harris with 76% of the vote.
  • State Rep. Jay Reedy (HD 74) defeated Barry Cotton in the primary.

Other pro-reform incumbents who won their races include, State Rep. Mike Carter (HD 29) and State Rep. Tim Wirgau (HD 75), who faced attacks on issues unrelated to school choice.


Tennessee Federation for Children Political Action Committee (TFC PAC) – TFC PAC has been formed to educate voters about the importance of educational choice and advocate for the election of candidates who will stand up to empower families and parents through a high-quality, statewide educational choice bill.


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