Here’s what is in the Senate version of the voucher bill

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a Philips event in Nashville on April 2, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Senate version of Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher proposal would double the number of students who could participate in the Education Savings Account program to 30,000.

The measure scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday would also dial back the testing requirements for students going to private school.

Instead of requiring the same TCAP test for math and English (but not science or social studies) that is administered to public school students, private schools could give their students a “nationally norm-referenced test” approved by the state Education Department. Examples of those standardized tests include the ACT and PARCC. That’s a provision likely to further outrage public school teachers who have long complained about the state-specific testing regimen.

Just as in the House bill, the program would be capped at 5,000 students in the first year, followed by increments of 2,500 in the next four years. But while the lower chamber’s bill envisions limiting the pilot program at 15,000, the Senate bill would continue to allow the program to grow by 2,500 students each ensuing year until it reaches an enrollment of 30,000.

Homeschooling appears to make a comeback in the Senate bill after being excised from the House version.

The Senate amendment retains language adopted in the House that requires parents to supply government issued documents to prove their children are legal residents of the United States. That’s a provision that could run afoul of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring K-12 education to be provided to all children regardless of their immigration status. But the legislature and governor’s office appear comfortable with plowing forward with that language included in the bill.

Income limits would remain at double federal limit to qualify for free school lunches.

Here’s what that comes out to:

Household members ESA income limit
2 $42,796
3 $54,028
4 $65,260
5 $76,492
6 $87,724
7 $98,956
8 $110,188


37 Responses to Here’s what is in the Senate version of the voucher bill

  • MB Moore says:

    Where does the money come from in both houses?

    • Misty Pardner says:

      Your pocket.

      • Jimmie Garland says:

        Again, he place access to the voucher funds outside of individuals who earn minimum wage. This is nothing more than Gov Lee thirst to desecrate public schools.

    • MarLE says:

      It flowed, first from your pocket to the Public Schools.

      Now some of it, not all by any stretch, will by-pass the public schools and follow the student to his school of Choice. Same money earmarked for education will still be collected from taxpayers; just not all of it will continue to go to the Government schools.

      • Lenny says:

        Also known as a bailout of private companies. Let the market dictate which virtual homeschools survive and keep the government out of it.

  • Leslie Parsley says:

    It’s actually being stolen from public school funds that tax payers “donate”.

    • MarLE says:

      The public schools do not own the money. So no theft is going on. The money is intended to educate a Student and, in the voucher program, it will do so wherever the Student chooses (provided you are poor enough to qualify!)

      • Melanie D Stinnett says:

        What happens to the schools that once got that funding for education? Plus.. poor enough to qualify isn’t entirely true. 85% of Arizona’s vouchered students’ families make $109k plus some.

    • Conniece Jackson says:

      This is nothing but stealing from the public school system.

      • JOHN LOTT says:

        Well in other states like Minnesota Taxpayer saw a huge increase in local school taxes. The standards of the public schools had to be maintained. So that takes more local money.

  • Francine Miller Johnson says:

    No public funds or tax breaks for private schools. All segregation academies must give a certain competitive monetary percentage to ADOS trust fund in compensation for failures caused by their 7- generations plus of undermining and brutal attacks of ADOS communities. This ADOS trust fund will be set up by ADOS, overseen by ADOS, and implemented by ADOS for the advancement of ADOS communities and is to be guaranteed specific and special protection under the law.

  • Jane Dillon says:

    Vouchers are BAD for Tennessee! Support public schools and pay the teachers! Stop the dumbing down of Tn. Bill Lee is a big disappointment.

    • Conniece Jackson says:

      That is precisely WHY did NOT vote for him. He is republican through & through NOT FOR THE AVERAGE PEOPLE OF TENNESSEE.!

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  • Diana Page says:

    Vouchers will beggar public schools across the state, and will result in further loss of sense of community.

    Why don’t our legislators learn from the failure of vouchers in other states? What is behind the push for them?

  • Kathy Wilson says:

    In my research on this topic, I can find VERY little stories regarding the voucher system other than it is detrimental to our public schools. To me, a 40 year veteran teacher, it is a tale of “Take away from Peter to pay Paul”. What good will it be to public schools. How many in the House or Senate attended public schools. If they are so bad, how did you get elected to serve others?

    Last question, How many oh you have been in a public school in the ast few years? There are great things going on.

    End poverty and find a way to improve parent involvement and you will see a change.

    • MarLE says:

      Public money for education is intended to educate students, not to be beneficial to the Public School monopoly. You asked “what good will it be for the Public Schools”? Not a great question, albeit a very honest one….thank you for putting that in writing.

  • Susan King says:

    You’re taking money from budget that should go to underfunded public schools to create a voucher system for people that could afford to pay for private school if that is what they choose and they would get a tax deduction for sending their children to private schools! So with this being said why does Tennessee need vouchers??? Provide funding to help all public schools! Also, provide cost of living raises for all teachers! Cut out oversized classes in public schools! Add additional teachers as needed to help struggling readers especially in kindergarten and first grade!

    • MarLE says:

      You chose a profession that gets a Fall break, a Spring break, a Very long Christmas break and has the summers off. A part of the problem is that when you don’t have so many work days compared with the corporate world you don’t make so much.

      Advocate for self-funded 401K like others have….one whose money you CAN outlive. The savings on eliminating Pensions til the Grave could be used to gross up monthly paychecks

      Advocate for year round school so you could work 48 weeks out of the year as many people do.

      • Debbi Finchum says:

        I am a proud public School teacher. I work more than 48 weeks per year. I am at my school at 7 am and I go home between 4:30 and 5 pm everyday. During breaks I work on my school
        Counseling program, lesson plans, screeners and how best to help my students. Also I have professional development that happens during those breaks. In public schools we give every student a free and appropriate education as mandated. And I worry about my students 24/7. Until you work in a public school think before you speak. Walk in my shoes and then we will talk.

        • MarLE says:

          I am retired and I, too, was a teacher. My mother was Teacher of the Year (different state) and her sister was a superintendent. So I know that cannot possibly be true. None of it. And if you are working at your job 48 weeks per yr then something is wrong.

          • MarLE says:

            You perhaps should not jump to conclusions.

          • Lenny says:

            Three time substitute teacher of the year.

          • Donna Locke says:

            My husband worked 48 weeks a year, officially, when he was a high school teacher and then a principal. In actuality, he worked 52 weeks a year as a principal because he was responsible for the school building and anything going on there. He worked many evenings and weekends as well. There was always some event at the school. As a teacher, he taught summer school every summer.

            When he was a principal, my husband worked longer hours than the teachers every day and often had to stay even later. When our kids were little, in order for them to see him some days, I took them to the school at suppertime and we all ate leftover peanut butter and cane syrup sandwiches from the school cafeteria. We loved those sandwiches, I don’t know why. The kids, now in their forties, still talk about ’em.

          • MarLE says:

            We are not talking about administrators…or at least I was not addressing the work schedule to Principals. Because there is simmer school which most Teachers do not work during, principals are on the job during those months.

            Everyone who has an executive, white collar job works longer than the actual office hours. You folks seem to think you are the only ones. Most college educated workers have to keep up with the ever-changing demands of their work place and therefore are putting in more than a 40hr work week. Y

            In addition to MY family being loaded up with teachers, the mothers of both of my Daughters in Law are retired Teachers and they would be happy to talk your ears off about the Pension and Medical benefits that they Can Not Outlive (nor can their spouses).

            Advocate for getting rid of the costly Pension system so that your salaries can increase. Get teachers in the classroom for 48 weeks per year…ALL of them.

            Get rid of the super-security around firing. If the industry goes south, a salesman will lose his job regardless of HIS responsibility for the poor economy. There is little job security outside of Government.

  • Carl w says:

    Just say NO to any kind of voucher!!!!
    The money is for public schools…

    NO NO NO !!K

    • MarLE says:

      The money is for Educating Students~ let that happen in an environment where this can be cost-effectively achieved. If that is a Public School then that is where the money should stay. But it should not stay simply because bureaucrats and those who profit from public education want to continue a monopoly.

      • Lenny says:

        If you can’t afford to go to virtual homeschool you go to public school. You’re a socialist. Socialism is the government supporting and running the businesses in society. If virtual homeschools don’t have enough students they can lower their prices or go out of business.

        • MarLE says:

          Socialism is indeed the government running of businesses. WE, in the USA, have designed an even better way. We have private ownership of business but enough Regulation and Taxation that the Government gets the control and Profit it wants without any of the headache they would incur IF they actually ran the business. Marx would be soooooo proud. He never envisioned such a cash cow for such little effort on the part of government.

          • Lenny says:

            There is no reason for the government to bail out virtual home schools. Why not give everyone a $50 debit card so we can stop all the frozen yogurt stores from going out of business? How about a debit card for Blockbuster? FroYo, Blockbuster, and virtual home schools are too big to fail.

          • MarLE says:

            I believe you idea for debit card purchases of frozen yogurt has already been taken. They are called Food Stamps in generic form but as a practical matter used as a piece of plastic.

          • MarLE says:

            And you can buy your frozen yogurt from a prosperous large food chain Or from a grocer who is near bankruptcy. Your choice. The card, and the taxpayer money that backs it, is intended to buy yogurt. Period. Who you choose to buy the nutritious yogurt from is up to you.

    • Jane says:

      No, the tax dollar is for educating children in Tn.—all of them. If you are not in a low performing school, what are you worried about. If you are in a low performing school, you should be worried!

      • MarLE says:

        Did schools of 50 yrs ago do a poorer job with low performing students? They certainly had less money and resources then.

        Is there no solution for besides more money to lift the under performing schools up? Taxpayers 50 years ago did not pay teachers as well; most did not have advanced degrees. Virtually non had teachers aides.

        Schools did not provide free breakfasts/lunches (can’t learn on a hungry stomach like you could in the “old days”) so no need to be staffed up before 7AM. Few schools had more than one guidance counselor IF they had one at all. They did not fund ESL classes. They did not fund the additional cost of mainstreaming.

        It seems we spend more. Are we achieving with these underperforming students now? Are they more appreciative of the education they are getting (or not being offered)? You would think that after 45 years of affirmative action that lift up women and minorities that we would have students eager to learn b/c they are assured that gender or race is not really an impediment as it was in the past.

    • Conniece Jackson says:

      D I T T O .! Well said..!

  • Jane says:

    Before public education improves, EDUCATION must be valued. Take a long hard look at successful educational systems around the world. America is not one of them. How are we different? Also, education will not improve until students become our focus. It is not about the educator!! I perdict public school teacher census will drop significantly because of student/teacher ratio when students begin to exit public schools. There will be private schools, voucher scholarships, homeschool and virtual school. Which teachers will be ‘laid off’? That is a question each school system will need to address before the situation arises. Want to improve public education—keep the most effective teachers and let go the less effective albeit the ones with seniority. If the more effective teacher with less seniority is let go, where will s/he go? To the voucher schools with less regulations and testing. How do we determine the most effective teachers? The ones whose student make the most gain or the ones who have the most community influence? With vouchers, will public schools get less money per student? Good question? Haven’t read in the Bill where funding per student is to be cut. Before you jump to criticize what I’ve said, know that I’m a retired educator who spent years in the classroom, administration, and as an educational consultant going into low achieving schools evaluating why they were failing and how they could improve. I am on the side of the teachers! Since Lamar Alexander became governor, Bill Sanders’ Value Added testing model, Teacher Evaluations and NCLB came on the scene, TN education has seen many changes! That’s an understatement. But, teachers, look for the good in this proposal—the good for students in our lowest achieving schools who otherwise have no chance for an adequate education—you have your education under your belt. You are actually protesting against their well-being for their lifetime. If the voucher schools can show more gains with less regulations and less testing, isn’t that a case for public education with less regulations and testing—let teachers teach again— let educators discipline again! Bringing competition for scholarships into the poorer TN communities—will that not encourage parents (who give it little thought now) think that maybe there is value to a good education? The only thing I am not seeing in the voucher Bill is a REQUIREMENT for parent involvement and a designated number of volunteer hours at the school. And that could be the making or breaking of this concept. Won’t you agree? I spent almost 40 years working in public education. I was fortunate to work with many super effective teachers and principals in low achieving schools, but I saw the other side of the coin, too. Ineffectiveness far outweighed effectiveness. Change is difficult and resisted to the enth degree—especially in education. Our government is out of ideas on how to improve public education—and improvement is needed—not a single one out there can disagree with that! Governments have tried to implement too many change-concepts too often without supporting these changes with adequate teacher training—vouchers being one of those concepts. Now, last ditch effort is to let someone else try to educate in our lowest performing districts. Your hand is being forced! You don’t control everything about your students that impact their education, but you do control many facets of their education as they sit in your classroom. Dwell on what you do control—your students will benefit. Also, the voucher system will effect so few of you and your school systems. I sat in a workshop 28 years ago when a speaker told us the tax money would follow the student to private schools. You should have heard the buzz among us as we left that workshop—something like, “He is completely and absolutely crazy!” It’s here fellow educators. It will be up to you whether or not public education survives.

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