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


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