Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to introduce school vouchers for low-income Tennessee students has been shelved.
On Wednesday, the bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, announced he was putting the bill on hold, according to an Associated Press report. The plan, which would have initially created a voucher program for 5,000 students next year, was snagged after Haslam became at odds with GOP senators, many who wanted to see the program’s size expanded.
Haslam’s voucher plan was one of the more controversial items put forward as a part of his legislative package this year. The governor had considered pursuing vouchers, or opportunity scholarships, in the previous legislative session, but opted instead to review the issue.
Haslam’s bill was called the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act. The program would have begun with 5,000 participants and expanded to as many as 20,000 by 2016.
Opponents of the plan argue that vouchers pull needed resources away from public schools.
In order to have qualified for a voucher, which could be put toward enrollment at a private or charter school, students would have needed to both be on a free or reduced lunch program and also attending one of the lowest-performing schools across the state, a priority school.
Hamilton County is home to six priority schools. In the past, Superintendent Rick Smith has stated opposition to vouchers.