Proponents of a limited school voucher program will have to take another stab at the issue next year. On Tuesday, the bill was taken out of consideration in the Tennessee House, ending its chances for approval in the waning legislative session.
Time was running out to secure votes and shepherd the proposal to a House vote, Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) told colleagues on the House Finance Committee on Tuesday. He removed the bill from the committee's calendar, killing it for the year.
Voucher supporters hoped this year might be the one to secure passage of the bill. The state Senate approved the measure, SB196, on April 10. Disagreements about the size and scope of the voucher program were being ironed out. The measure encountered lighter headwinds than it did in 2013.
Still, Dunn cited difficulty in shoring up political support for the bill in the House in the limited time the chamber has left before it closes up shop for the year. The chamber will re-convene on Wednesday morning, with the goal of adjourning for the session this week.
Under the legislative proposal supported by Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and others, public money would have been given to low-income families in five Tennessee counties - Davidson, Shelby, Knox, Hamilton and Hardeman - to send their kids from academically failing schools to private schools.
Dunn said he will try again next year for the voucher system, which proponents say gives parents greater choices for their children's education. Opponents, including Democrats in the General Assembly, said the program would take $16 million in taxpayer money and shift it to private schools, undermining public schools in those five counties.