Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher initiative cleared the Tennessee Senate Thursday after a lengthy debate among lawmakers.
The measure is expected to be negotiated between Senate and House lawmakers, since each version is completely different from the other.
The bill approved in the Senate would make $7,300 education vouchers available to students in Davidson and Shelby County schools, and the Achievement School District.
But the House version also includes Knox and Hamilton Counties.
The chambers are also divided over whether to allow homeschoolers to get school vouchers. The Senate wants them to, but the House does not.
The issue of residency verification is also driving a wedge between the chambers.
The House wants parents to provide proof of legal immigration status, whereas the Senate said they’d be satisfied with asking parents for W-2s and pay stubs.
And there’s also a question of which standardized tests participants should have to take.
The differences could be resolved between both chambers as soon as next week through a conference committee.
Despite the differences, Gov. Bill Lee called Tuesday a “historic day.”
“Given that the House and the Senate have never before both passed an education savings account bill, so it’s a historic day,” Lee told reporters. “But it’s mostly for me an important day for the children of Tennessee and for opportunity for them regarding education and the future.”
Lee declined to say which version he preferred.
“I’m just encouraged by the fact that we are going to get a bill that is going to provide access,” Lee said.
The governor acknowledged he favors a more expanded version, but said he is hopeful lawmakers in the Senate and House will craft good legislation.