Despite nervousness, Tennessee House panel approves Gov. Bill Lee's charter school authorizer bill

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State Address Monday, March 4, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's proposal to create a new independent state entity for authorizing charter schools cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday despite reservations among several of his fellow Republicans.

The plan won approval from the GOP-run House Curriculum, Testing, & Innovation Subcommittee on a voice vote. Several representatives worried that it could wind up stripping any control or input over approval of new publicly funded charter schools from local school districts.

"This is the type bill that challenges us and this is why we're here," House Education Committee Chairman Mark White, R-Memphis, told nervous subcommittee members, urging them to "move it to [full] committee with a totally open mind."

White noted that, although Tennessee has made large strides in improving public education, only 37 percent of third-graders read at grade level.

"We