NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal to create a school voucher program in Tennessee advanced in the Senate on Wednesday, even though lawmakers still have to work out differences in eligibility requirements before the measure eventually heads to his desk.
The legislation was approved 8-1 in the Senate Education Committee. It differs slightly from the companion bill that was withdrawn from consideration in the House Finance Committee.
The Republican governor originally sought to limit the vouchers to students from low-income families attending the bottom 5 percent of failing schools. Under the new version, if there are not enough students for the available slots, then eligibility would be opened to low-income students in districts that have a school in the bottom 5 percent.
The House version would expand eligibility to the bottom 10 percent of failing schools if slots are left.
Lawmakers in both chambers say they hope to work out the differences so a school voucher bill can pass this year.
"I think people realize that when it comes to opportunity for these children we want to get the best opportunity we can, and I think that everybody will work well together to make sure that we have some program in the final analysis," said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who is carrying the legislation for the governor.