Task Force releases findings on school voucher program - WSMV Channel 4

Task Force releases findings on school voucher program

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Will Tennessee taxpayers end up footing the bill for potentially hundreds of students to attend private school? That issue is now in Gov. Bill Haslam's hands.

The Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships released its final report to the governor late Thursday afternoon.

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

After nearly a year of discussions and debate the Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships released its final report Thursday. Inside were ideas on ways to further the state's educational objectives.

While several issues are still undecided, members agreed, any voucher program must target low-income students, whether in low-performing schools or students living below a certain income level.

Also private and public schools could both potentially be included in the program. In the case of private schools, they can only charge a student the amount of the voucher. For instance the combined amount the state and local governments pay per student. In Metro Nashville schools it adds up to roughly $6,700.

And any program would start small, but could begin almost immediately if approved by the legislature. But the plan may be a tough sell at the state Capitol.

"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 a bad idea," Jerry Winter with the Tennessee Education Association maintained.

Haslam issued a statement after the group released its report.

"I want to thank the members of the Task Force for the time and effort they spent researching and deliberating what an opportunity scholarship program could look like in Tennessee," Haslam said. "I look forward to reviewing the Task Force's recommendations ahead of the upcoming legislative session."

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