It's the Year of the Opportunity Scholarship in Tennessee
By Kimberly Sawatka
Tennessee has been cited as a state whose education system has been steadily improving; however, despite increased spending, focus on graduation rates and higher teachers’ pay, the state still lags behind majority of the U.S. in education scores.
As the 109th Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes on Monday for the second half of their two-year session, education will once again be a top priority for legislators.
For several years, a bill to create a state voucher program has surfaced in the legislature and passed the senate three years running. Because 2016 is the second half of the session, there is great optimism an opportunity scholarship program will become a reality for the state. “Since the measure passed the Senate last spring, all it has to do is clear the House finance committee and the full House this spring. Gov. Bill Haslam has indicated he would sign voucher legislation into law.”
The bill titled “The Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act” or HB1049, passed the state senate in 2015 with a resounding 23-9 vote. This bill allows children in the bottom five percent of public schools to receive an opportunity scholarship to attend the private school of their choice. This would allow the money dedicated to the child’s education in the public system to follow the child to the school of their choice.
The start of the legislative session comes just before the National School Choice Week, Jan. 24-30, when all around the nation parents, students, educators and community leaders come together to put a spotlight on educational choice options.