2016: The Year for Educational Choice in Tennessee
By Kimberly Sawatka
Tennessee lawmakers are hopeful that 2016 will be the year of educational choice in the state! For the past three years a K-12 voucher bill has been introduced in the legislature and it is closer to being passed into law than ever before. In 2015 the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act received bi-partisan support in both houses and support from Gov. Haslam. The session ended with the bill in the House Education Subcommittee, and it will pick up there when the legislature reconvenes in January. The bill is expected to advance to the floor for a full vote.
State Senator Brian Kelsey is optimistic that a voucher bill will be enacted in 2016. He recently told an AP reporter that “the chairman of the House Education Subcommittee where the companion bill was stalled the last session is also a co-sponsor of the legislation he’s supporting.”
A statewide 2015 poll showed that 59 percent of Tennessee voters support school choice legislation. As Republican presidential hopefuls have turned national attention to educational choice and offering options in communities, local Tennessee residents are looking more and more to school choice as a viable option for helping students succeed academically.
Recent NAEP scores showed Tennessee students fell flat this year only maintaining 2013 scores. “A recent state report card that showed 52 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 are not proficient in reading language.” State educators are now putting more focused attention on reading programs in hopes of improving student outcomes.
As the 2016 legislative session quickly approaches, the educational choice conversation is getting bolder and louder in the state of Tennessee.