NASHVILLE – The Senate Education Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) calling for Opportunity Scholarships for students eligible for free and reduced lunch within districts containing a school in the bottom five percent of academic achievement. The “Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act” mirrors legislation proposed by Governor Bill Haslam last year that was passed by the Senate but stalled in the House.
“Equal Opportunity Scholarships provide impoverished children with hope for a better education and choice in the school they attend,” said Senator Brian Kelsey. “Children should not be forced to attend a failing school just because they live in a certain neighborhood.”
Under Senate Bill 122, approximately $6,500 of the scholarships would be offered to low-income students to attend the school of their parents’ choice. The scholarship program would be capped at 5,000 students in year one, 7,500 in year two, 10,000 in year three, and 20,000 in year four and thereafter. If those caps are not reached each year, scholarships would be offered to other low-income children in those counties in which a school in the bottom 5 percent of schools is located.
“This is an idea whose time has come,” added Kelsey, who first introduced the idea in the Tennessee legislature ten years ago. “The parents of these children deserve more choices, and their children deserve more options to receive a quality education.”
The bill is sponsored by House Education Administration and Planning Committee Chairman Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) in the House of Representatives.
Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He serves as a member of the Senate Education Committee and as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.