Tennessee supporters of school vouchers will have to wait until next year for another shot at legislative approval.
Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) on Wednesday deferred his bill to next year. The proposed legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown).
Vouchers allow students to attend private schools with taxpayer money. Supporters have been trying for seven years to get vouchers approved in Tennessee. This year’s bill would have allowed for a pilot program in Memphis. Voucher proponents say they empower parents to make educational choices for their children. Critics of vouchers say they drain money from public schools and violate the separation of church and state when children choose to attend religious schools.
Many advocates had thought that limiting vouchers to Memphis would give this year’s proposal the support needed to become law, winning over wary lawmakers from elsewhere in Tennessee. They also hoped to benefit from national attention to private school choice efforts. President Donald Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, have both used their platforms to advocate for vouchers and similar programs.
But in the end, disagreements over how private schools should be held accountable for academic results — as well as legislators’ exhaustion after passing a hotly debated gasoline tax — caused the measure to stall.
On Tuesday, a documentary critical of both vouchers and charter schools was shown at the Nashville Film Festival.