Senators pass school voucher bill that impacts Hamilton County

NASHVILLE - State senators on Thursday passed legislation that creates a school voucher program for students from lower-income families in Hamilton County and the state's three other largest counties.

The measure passed on a largely partisan 20-10 vote with one Democrat, Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville, joining with majority Republicans. Several Republicans did not vote.

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Similar legislation in the House has not started to move.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, praised the bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, saying, it will provide "opportunity scholarships for parents who have their children trapped in a failing school but don't have the means to take them anywhere else."

But Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, charged it was little more than a retread of 30-year-old ideas. He complained that majority Republicans this year are pushing a series of "divisive" partisan bills that depart from recent bipartisan approaches on education reform.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.