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Incumbents defeat challengers in local, state races tied to education in Memphis

Final results likely won’t be available until Wednesday. Laura Faith Kebede

The Board of Education for Shelby County Schools will remain intact, and state races with strong education ties in Memphis also likely will return incumbents who mostly oppose private school tuition vouchers and expansion of Tennessee’s Achievement School District.

Stephanie Love retained her school board seat Thursday with 60 percent of the vote against challenger Sharon Fields. Love, whose district includes Frayser, Raleigh and some of Millington, has been a vocal critic of Tennessee’s Achievement School District and says the school turnaround district should have its own form of a school board to increase transparency. Fields is an office manager and family coordinator at Libertas School of Memphis, a charter school that opened last year under the ASD. (See our Q&A with the candidates to see their positions on education issues.)

Other school board incumbents — Miska Clay Bibbs, Teresa Jones, Scott McCormick and Kevin Woods — were unopposed in their races. They will be sworn in on Aug. 30.

In three key education-related races for the state House of Representatives, none of the Democratic primary winners face Republican opposition in November’s general election.

Rep. John DeBerry defeated Tami Sawyer in District 90. DeBerry is one of the House’s most vocal supporters of private school vouchers and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from education advocacy organizations over the last decade. Sawyer, a Teach For America community organizer who said she does not have a position on vouchers, garnered 43 percent of the vote.

In District 98, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, an outspoken critic of the Achievement School District, soundly defeated Johnnie Hatten, a leader with the Memphis Lift parent group that lobbied the state legislature in support of the ASD. The pro-voucher, pro-school choice group Tennessee Federation for Children spent more than $10,000 on materials opposing Parkinson.

Rep. Johnnie Turner held on to her seat in District 86. Turner, who had the support of the Tennessee Education Association, ran against Keith Williams, a pastor who testified this year at the state Capitol in favor of vouchers as a paid worker for the Campaign for School Equity, formerly known as the Tennessee Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Chalkbeat legislative reporter Grace Tatter contributed to this report.

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