TN Legislators To Consider New School Voucher Program

(Memphis) Last year, Tennessee students set a record for how fast they improved test scores.

Lawmakers claim the success is because of innovation in schools across the state, and they’re trying to shake things up again.

Some Tennessee Lawmakers are pushing to give low-income families tax payer money to move their student from a public school to a private school if they want.

This voucher program is pretty controversial but Shelby County senator Brian Kelsey is co-sponsoring the bill and says something must be done.

“My concern is for the impoverished students in Shelby County. Many of them are in really bad situations right now and we’ve got to give them more opportunities,” said Kelsey.

A similar bill failed last year because lawmakers couldn’t decide how many low-income students to include.

Last year Governor Bill Haslam said vouchers across the board weren’t a good idea and pushed for limited vouchers only going to about 7,000 families in need.

He tells us his position hasn’t changed much this year.

“We want to come up with the best idea. Last year we didn’t hear another approach that we thought made since given everything else we have,” said Haslam.

The governor says that limited approach would impact the lowest performing schools first since the state has already taken over most of those schools as part of the Achievement School District, and it would give lawmakers a chance to test the voucher program before expanding it.

“It makes sense to take a measured approach as you look at vouchers and let’s see the impact. There’s a lot of concern about what impact it will have on the existing school districts; how much impact it will have on students,” said Haslam.

A student on free or reduced lunch and a family that makes less than $43,000 a year qualify as low-income.

The legislative session starts in Nashville next Tuesday.