School Voucher Bill Advances In House

 NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A proposal to create a school voucher program in Tennessee is advancing in the House.

The measure proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam passed the House Budget Subcommittee 7-6 on Wednesday.

The Governor calls it the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act. It took House Speaker Beth Harwell to cast the deciding vote.

"You know it was brought to my attention that it would be necessary for my vote in order to continue to move the bill forward.  I think ultimately the finance committee is going to have a lot of input and I think there are a lot of members in the general assembly eager to look at this bill," said Harwell.

The legislation is slightly different than an original measure brought by the Republican governor that was limited to students from low-income families attending the bottom 5 percent of failing schools.

The measure that passed would expand eligibility to the bottom 10 percent of failing schools if slots are left.

"They are failing in many different ways.  These schools have proficiency rates as low as 15 percent.  85 percent of children are not proficient as they move through there," said Representative Bill Dunn of Knoxville.

Haslam withdrew his initial legislation last year when Senate Republicans sought to expand to a larger number of children.

The Senate version of the voucher proposal was to be taken up in the Senate Education Committee later Wednesday.

 A spokesman for Governor Haslam says the governor is pleased to see the bill is progressing. The bill will be heard by the full committee next Tuesday.