State lawmakers discuss possible school voucher program - WSMV News 4

State lawmakers discuss possible school voucher program

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One of the biggest issues expected to come up next year in the state capitol is one that could impact your child's education.

State lawmakers are going to consider a school voucher program, which would give kids taxpayer money to attend private schools.

From transportation, to the voucher amount, to whether or not it will actually help students, there are still a lot of questions. However, a blueprint for a plan is starting to take shape.

"What are we after? Are we after choice or are we after academic outcome improvement," asked State Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville.

A state task force has been meeting for a year to try and figure out what a school voucher program would look like in Tennessee.

They said any voucher program will focus on low-income students - either students in low-performing schools or below an income threshold.

"If we want to help academic achievement numbers increase, then we've got to have a statewide program that affects a lot of students," said State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.

Private schools that want to be a part of the program would only charge a student the amount of the voucher. As for the voucher itself, there is no agreement on the cost, although some would like it to be the total amount of state and local per-student funding.

In Metro Nashville Public Schools, that equates to about $6,700.

The average tuition at a Nashville private school is about $8,900.

Any program would start small and could start almost immediately after the legislature approves it, but there are still huge concerns.

"We're talking about something that is going to rob public schools, send the money to private and parochial schools at a time when we're already 46th or 47th in funding schools in the nation. It's just a bad idea," said Jerry Winters, with the Tennessee Education Association.

The state task force will give its final report to Gov. Bill Haslam in about two weeks.

Then it would be up to the governor to decide whether he wants to make it one of his key issues.

Regardless of what he thinks, some lawmakers want to push forward with this issue.

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