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School voucher bill headed to Governor Lee’s desk

Posted at 3:55 PM, May 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-01 19:21:32-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A governor-backed plan to give private tuition to students in the state’s lowest performing schools passed through the legislature Wednesday.

After debate in a joint committee this morning, a compromise of the Education Savings Account plan was approved by both houses.

It now heads to Governor Bill Lee’s desk. He’s expected to sign it.

Under the proposal, families who meet certain income requirements Davidson and Shelby counties could receive $7,300 in state funds to spend on private tuition.

Lee's bill was originally estimated to cost $125 million to fund the education savings account program. However, after various amendments and changes, the latest fiscal analysis has the bill's funding between $135 to $165 million.

However, the latest version only allows the program to take place in Shelby and Davidson counties. The bill had originally applied to more areas. It would also allow other counties to participate in the program through grants.

Changes to the bill clarified that home schooling is not a part of the bill. Also, clauses for proof of income and punishment for fraud were both added to the bill.

In the end, the house passed the bill 51-46 and the senate passed it 19-14.

Beth Brown, president of Tennessee Education Association, said this will have a harmful impact on those two counties.

"As an educator, I'm deeply concerned that we continue to have this narrative about failing schools and we don't really get to the root of the problem. We're not having any conversation about what is hindering student success," said Brown.