Tennessee Senate Education Chair Says Voucher Agreement Is Needed By Week’s End For Passage This Session

Photo: Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, Senate’s Education Committee chairman, predicts the private-school voucher bill won’t pass this year if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of the week. Photo Credit: John Partipilo

By Sam Stockard [Tennessee Lookout – CC BY-NC-ND 4.0] –

The Senate’s Education Committee chairman is predicting the private-school voucher bill won’t pass this year if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of the week.

“I think if we don’t have something by this weekend … . We’ll know by this weekend if we’re going to be able to move something next week,” Republican Sen. Jon Lundberg of Bristol said. “Then I’d be worried. It’s too big a deal to just patchwork at the last minute.”


Lawmakers are expected to continue meeting until the middle of next week. The Senate is much further along in its proceedings than the House, which is scheduled to be in session Friday.

Lundberg confirmed Wednesday he and Republican Rep. Kirk Haston of Lobelville, chairman of the House K-12 Subcommittee, continued negotiating earlier in the day on differing components in each chamber’s voucher bill.

He and Haston both told the Lookout, “It’s still alive.”

Lundberg acknowledged he and Haston are stuck on critical provisions in their bills, mainly one that would dial back standardized testing in the House measure.

“We’re dancing around accountability,” mainly end-of-course testing, Lundberg said.

Senate finance committees didn’t meet Wednesday, and Lundberg said they won’t get together Thursday, either, when the full Senate will be in a floor session to consider the state’s $52.8 billion budget plan. The House was slated to take up the budget Wednesday evening but then postponed consideration.


Senate and House budgets both contain nearly $145 million for vouchers to send 20,000 public school students to private schools, the first leg of Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal. But the bills that many believe would change the landscape of public education in Tennessee haven’t been taken up in weeks. 

The House finance subcommittee didn’t take up its version of the private-school voucher bill Wednesday, even though rumors circulated that sponsors were trying to find a new “vehicle,” or bill, to carry their version.

The Senate version is more comparable to Lee’s plan. But the House version uses a different funding plan and calls for increases in insurance payments for teachers and funding for school construction.

Senators also want to give students the option to transfer from one public district to another, but they are adamantly opposed to the House proposal to reduce testing.

About the Author: Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state’s best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association. Follow Stockard on Twitter @StockardSam

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