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Legislator Comments on Voucher Proposal

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday proposed a limited school-voucher program for students from poor families who attend failing schools. The program would be capped at 5,000 students this year and grow to 20,000 students by 2016. Here are some responses to the proposal:
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“I think he has made it clear that it is a very limited program for failing students in failing schools. … One of the things I respect about the governor is that it’s part of his trademark to phase it in.” — House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.
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“I know that this year there’s going to be an effort by the press and others to say there’s a fight and Republicans aren’t getting along and things like that. There are differences of opinion, but in the end I think we’ll pass a bill that’s good for the state.” — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, who favors a broader approach.
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“The way he rolled it out today, I like it. Eat an elephant, as the saying goes, a bit at a time.” — House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin.
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“Everyone is for a school of choice. But … what size voucher, who gets it? (What’s the) impact on public education? The devil is more in the details on vouchers than almost any topic we discussed tonight.” — Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis.
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“We’re making significant gains in what really counts, and that’s student achievement. And continuing the focus on that important work was as important to me as any new program that was announced.” — Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE.
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“We all are interested in education, no question about that. I think he spent the most time of his speech on that. I just have a little different philosophy about the use of public money for private schools on the vouchers.” — House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

Democrats Propose Alternative State Budget

News release from House Democratic Caucus:
Nashville, TN -House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh joined with Democratic members of the House Finance Ways & Means Committee today in unveiling an alternative to the FY ’12-’13 budget put forward by the Administration. With over $200,000,000 in excess revenue not being accounted for in the Administration’s budget, Democrats believe there is a need for a more measured approach.
“At a time when working families are still hurting and the state is collecting revenue far and beyond what last year’s estimates indicated, it’s irresponsible to leave this money out of the budget,” said Fitzhugh. “A far better option, I think, is to use these funds for the benefit of all Tennesseans, by avoiding unnecessary cuts and making smart investments in our future”
The alternative budget provides another .25 percent cut to the grocery tax, with a plan to reduce it by a full one percent over the next four years. $30,000,000 is appropriated to TSAA grants. A two percent cut to higher education is restored; reducing from six percent to three percent the amount colleges and universities must increase tuition in the 2012-2013 school year. In addition to avoiding cuts to K-12 education, the plan calls for a one-time investment in community colleges and technology centers to expand programming in emerging fields. The alternative plan also avoids cuts to programs that help the elderly and disabled stay in their homes, by fully funding the CHOICES program and Family Support Services.
“We have spent this whole session talking a lot about tax cuts, jobs and education. The budget is our opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. Our plan does that,” said Fitzhugh.
The alternative budget is balanced; it does not use all the excess revenue available and maintains a $50,000,000 contribution to the state’s rainy day fund. The plan also calls for using cash in lieu of proposed bonds on capital outlay projects, saving taxpayers 30 percent to 40 percent in interest rates over the life of the bonds.
“Our plan balances the budget, while avoiding unnecessary cuts and investing in our future. This is a smart approach that leaves the people of Tennessee better off in the long run. It’s just the right thing to do.”

A list of bullet points is below.

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