School Voucher Proposal Advances In Senate, Waits In House

Mar 27, 2014


A state Senate committee approved a proposal to create a limited school voucher program on Wednesday, even as questions remain about how large the effort should be.

The Senate's proposal would include 5,000 low-income students from poorly-performing Tennessee schools in the program's first year, expanding to 20,000 students in its fourth year, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

But on the same day the Senate Education Committee gave it stamp of approval to the proposal, a companion bill in the House was held back, at least temporarily. House sponsor Gerald McCormick said he'd wait to see what the Senate decided before bringing his proposal back to his House colleagues.

The school voucher effort would give public money to parents, generally intended to help send their children to private schools. Republicans said vouchers help boost kids from failing schools to better ones, boosting their chances for a good education. Democrats are typically opposed to vouchers, saying they undermine efforts to improve public schools.

Disagreement over the size of the voucher program has been an issue since Governor Bill Haslam proposed it in 2013. Haslam initially wanted a small program, open to low-income students from the bottom five percent of Tennessee's public schools. House Republicans want the program open to the same students, but from the bottom ten percent of schools. The current Senate proposal fell between the two.

It was unclear Wednesday evening whether an accord can be reached in the time legislators have left before the close of this year's session.