NASHVILLE -- Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's limited school-voucher proposal barely scraped through a sometimes-chaotic House panel today after the intervention of House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Finance Subcommittee members approved an amended version of the bill on a 7-6 vote, sending it on to the full Finance Committee. Harwell voted yes.
Earlier, a Haslam administration amendment on the bill failed on a voice vote.
Under another amendment that was eventually adopted, the bill continues to provide for a limited program in which parents of up to 5,000 students in the bottom 5 percent of public schools can use taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay to attend private and religious schools.
If not enough students participate, the amendment provides the pool of students can be expanded to the bottom 10 percent of schools. That would take in more counties than the affected five counties, including Hamilton County schools, affected by the original bill.
During the hearing, Democratic critics argued taking money from public schools could trigger yet another school systems' lawsuit against the state.