Gov. Bill Haslam plans to pursue school vouchers

Authored By James Harrison

Gov. Bill Haslam indicated Monday that he will move forward with a proposal to introduce a school voucher system during the current legislative session, more than a year after he delayed the decision, citing the need for further review.

Haslam told reporters that he planned to deliver the specifics of his plan in the upcoming weeks, according to a Tennessean report. The governor’s comments came following a “casual dialogue” on education reform with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, hosted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). 

Vouchers, also called “opportunity scholarships” by supporters, are taxpayer-funded stipends offered to parents of low-income students to be put toward enrollment at a private or charter school. In late 2011, Haslam appointed a task force to consider the implementation of a program in areas of Tennessee.

Specifics of the governor’s plan will likely be outlined on Jan. 28, when he delivers his annual State of the State address to lawmakers in Nashville. 

Already, local legislators have begun to comment on the prospect of a voucher bill. Rep. Richard Floyd, a Republican, has said he would support voucher legislation, while Democratic Rep. JoAnne Favors has said she opposes.

Last year, during his annual State of the Schools address, Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith came out against the idea of a school voucher program, citing concern that vouchers would take funding from public schools.