Tennessee’s Haslam to Slow Down State Education Reform

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has announced that he is stalling on a proposal to further open up school choice in the state due to too many “unanswered questions.” He feels that the timing isn’t right for school vouchers, writes the Tennessee Report at  Missouri News Horizon.

Gov. Haslam spoke against the plan to allow students to use taxpayer-funded vouchers like scholarships to attend the public, charter or private schools of their parents’ choice, and then shutting the door on the proposal, saying he’d rather set up a task force to look into the subject next year.

The plan was one of the most anticipated going into the next year’s legislative session, but Haslam’s reservations stalled the reform’s momentum.

“I didn’t think the timing was right,” the governor said.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Give us a chance to catch our breath here,’ which I thought, given everything that’s going on, was a fair request of them.”

This past year saw many Republican-led education reform bills pass into law – from making teacher tenure more difficult to earn to eliminating collective bargaining and making it easier for students to enroll in charter schools.

Although the Senate OK’d the vouchers bill in the spring, the proposal was left behind by House Republican leadership who opted to hold the bill over until 2012.

Haslam’s administration spent months deliberating on where they sat on the idea. Officials are said to have studied how vouchers have been used in other states, how successful they were and what lasting effect they’ve had.

“We hadn’t really tried to say what would this look like in Tennessee? How much of the state’s money would go? What would be the ramifications of that?” said Haslam.

The “task force” that Haslam’s administration has set up to analyze the voucher system includes education experts, stakeholders and legislators. They are expected to report back by next fall.

A spokesman for the governor said the task force’s initial meeting has not been set.