School Voucher Bill Shelved for the Year in House Sub

A Senate-passed school voucher bill, which would apply in the state’s four largest counties, was abandoned for the year Wednesday in a House subcommittee.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, brought the bill, SB485, before the House Education subcommittee Wednesday afternoon, describing it as a means to assure that children from low-income families have “the opportunity to attend a school that meets their own needs.”
But after Dunn’s description of the measure, a recess was called. Reportedly, Republican members of the panel were summoned during the recess to a meeting where House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick called for shelving the bill for this year.
When the panel returned, Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, made the motion to postpone any action until next year and instead relegate the measure to “summer study.” The motion was endorsed by Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and approved unanimously by voice vote.
The bill, as it passed the Senate 18-10 last week over objections of all four impacted school systems, would allow half the taxpayer money spent per student to be given to private or church schools where the student’s parents chose to move him or her. It would apply, at least initially, to students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at school because of low family income.
“We’ve done a whole lot (in education reform) this year and I think some people just want to take a deep breath,” said Dunn afterwards.
He said the study would allow ample time to address concerns expressed about the measure. Those have centered on contentions that passage of the bill would drain much-needed resources from public schools.

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