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Tennessee House, Senate divided on school choice bill as governor aims for compromise

Each chamber of Tennessee's General Assembly is proposing their own school voucher bill, and Gov. Lee is hoping for a compromise before the end of the legislative session.

Tennessee lawmakers have struggled to reach an agreement on a school voucher bill, with the House and Senate remaining apart on what should be included in the legislation.

Each chamber of the General Assembly is proposing their own version of the school voucher bill. The House and Senate remain divided on their proposals, as a Senate committee prepares to hear their version on Tuesday.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee is hoping lawmakers can come together on a compromise before the end of the current legislative session, according to Fox Chattanooga.


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Tennessee lawmakers are attempting to expand the state’s existing school voucher program, which is limited to students with special needs and those who live in certain counties.

The cost of the House version of the proposal is $500 million, as the bill currently stands.

“We in the House feel like we should be doing something to strengthen the $8.5 billion that we’re investing in K-12 public schools, not just focus on the $144 million of school choice,” GOP Rep. William Lamberth told Fox Chattanooga. “You can handle both in the same bill, we can focus on both, and I think we should.”

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The Senate version is half the cost of the House counterpart but it does not include the House’s provisions to increase state payments for teacher health insurance plans, changes to principal and teacher evaluations or changes to testing requirements.

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The primary goal of the Senate version is establishing Lee’s Education Freedom Scholarship Act and opening inter-county school enrollment.

“We’re focused on families first, and we want to do what we need to do to improve the quality of life of every Tennessee family,” Democrat Rep. John Ray Clemmons told Fox Chattanooga. “And that is not happening right now with this fiscal mismanagement.”

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