Haslam scraps voucher plan

On April 4, 2013, in News 2013, by Mark Norris

By: John Klein Wilson, TNReport.com
April 4, 2013

Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has axed his own school-vouchers proposal for the remainder of the legislative session.

Sen. Mark Norris, who was carrying Haslam’s “Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act,” told reporters Wednesday that the governor decided not to move forward with Senate Bill 196 because some GOP lawmakers refused to back down from their plan to amend the administration-backed measure.

Some Senate Republican have said they’d like to expand the number of students eligible for taxpayer-funded school-choice vouchers beyond what the governor’s legislation offered.

“As majority leader, I had tried to give as much time as possible for reason to prevail, but rather than fewer amendments we received word that there would be more amendments, all of which attempted to broaden the governor’s initiative beyond what he feels is appropriate,” said Norris, a Collierville Republican.

The governor “wanted a more measured approach to introducing vouchers to the state of Tennessee and he didn’t want it to become a political football at the expense of the children it was design to serve,” Norris continued. “If they won’t run their own bill, they shouldn’t try to hijack the administration’s.”

School vouchers would let certain students put state education money toward tuition at private schools. The Haslam administration’s more modest plan would have given vouchers — or “opportunity scholarships”  — to students attending the bottom five percent of Tennessee schools whose family income level already qualified them for free school lunches. The number of vouchers would have been capped at 5,000 for the 2013-14 school year and risen to 20,000 by 2016.

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