A school vouchers proposal that moved ahead Wednesday in the state legislature may affect some rural districts in addition to Tennessee’s cities. A voucher program would help students in failing public schools pay for private tuition instead.
The House version is not as narrow as the governor wanted, or as expansive as a rival Senate proposal. The bill’s focus is still on the bottom 5 percent of schools, in the state’s major cities. It’s limited to 5,000 vouchers, but if some are left over, eligibility then opens up to students in a handful of low-scoring schools in more rural districts. House Speaker Beth Harwell:
“What we’re trying to do is get to those children in chronically low-performing schools, and we want to give them an opportunity for something else. And that’s what this is all about.”
Harwell cast a pair of pivotal votes in two 7-6 decisions to get the amendment out a sometimes chaotic subcommittee meeting, which repeatedly paused so lawmakers could huddle privately. Afterward, Harwell noted the measure has a ways to go, and could still change.
Meanwhile on the senate side, a voucher proposal was not taken up Wednesday during a three hour meeting of the Education committee.