Bill Lee says school voucher effort is 'important' to Chattanooga and would strengthen funding to public schools

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Gov. Bill Lee smiles as he speaks at a Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the EPB building downtown on Friday, March 22, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Friday doubled down on his school voucher proposal, saying there's "a lot of misunderstanding about it" and that passing it is important to Chattanooga.

"I encourage you to look deeper," he told a group of about 150 people in Chattanooga.

Countering worries that the plan to provide educational savings accounts (ESAs) to parents of students would siphon money from public schools, Lee said his proposal now before the state Legislature would strengthen such funding.

When money goes with a child that qualifies for an ESA, those funds are replaced in the school system the student left, the Tennessee Republican said at a meeting organized by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It provides choice to children and gives Tennessee the opportunity to be a leader in America in improving our schools," said the governor.