"If we can help our lowest income students in our lowest performing schools, why wouldn't we?"
-Governor Bill Haslam, State of the State Address, January 28, 2013
Governor Haslam believes in school choice and parents and families having options in order to find the right educational environment for their children. After appointing a task force of experts to study opportunity scholarships over the past year, the Governor is proposing an initiative that will address a clear need by providing low income families with students stuck in the lowest performing schools the opportunity to seek educational options outside the traditional public education system. He's doing this while doubling down on his commitment to support our public schools.
What is being proposed?
Eligible students will have the opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend the private school of their choice.
Only students whose family income status makes them eligible for free or reduced lunch and who also are zoned to a school among the bottom five percent in terms of student achievement will qualify for the program.
In order for independent schools to accept scholarship students, they must be approved through a recognized accreditation process, agree to accept the scholarship as payment in full, and require scholarship students to take either the state's achievement test or a nationally norm-referenced test capable of producing value-added results.
Other accountability measures include a school's continued participation in the program being contingent upon student outcomes.
The program will be capped in terms of overall statewide participation, beginning with an initial cap of 5,000 students in the first year and rising to 7,500 in the second, 10,000 in the third, and 20,000 in the fourth and thereafter.