Governor Bill Lee's school voucher plan passes key hurdle

Posted: 12:38 PM, Mar 27, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-27 20:27:08-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After two hours of debate, the governor’s Education Savings Account (ESA) plan passed through the Education Committee.

The ESA plan would award students from low-income districts $7,300 to attend independent schools.

Opponents of the legislation fear vouchers would reduce funding for public schools and wouldn’t increase overall school achievement. They argued that the state would benefit more from funding public schools than the program.

"At the end of the day, there's almost zero accountability when these funds are used in these private institutions," said state Representative Antonio Parkinson. "I heard the words choice, and it's not really a choice for the parents. It's a choice for the private institutions because, at the end of the day, they can decide if they want this child or not."

However, supporters said the state should trust parents know what’s best for their kids and ESAs will allow parents to have a choice were the students can go to school.

The bill's sponsor, state rep. Bill Dunn said it gives students opportunities they wouldn't have without the program.

"A lot of private schools, they have endowments, where they can help students," said Rep. Dunn. What we talked about in there is if there's a very expensive private school and they would take one of these students, the Tennessee taxpayer would get a $20,000 education for $7,000. That's great. That's a win-win for everybody. I think a Tennessee taxpayers would be excited to know that a student got that level of education for so little dollars."

The measure passed with a vote of 14 to 9.