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Haslam’s School Voucher Task Force ‘Outlines Various Options’

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, November 29, 2012:

Governor Receives Report from Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today received a report from the Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships, outlining recommendations for a potential program to expand educational options and improve achievement for low-income students in Tennessee.

The report comes a year after Haslam appointed the nine-person Task Force—made up of state education leaders, legislators and representatives from public and private schools—to consider a program to offer publicly funded scholarships for low-income students to offset tuition costs at participating schools in Tennessee.

The Task Force was not meant to evaluate the merits or disadvantages of a scholarship program. Instead, members spent months studying the public and private education landscape in Tennessee, as well as opportunity scholarship programs in other states, to determine potential design elements that would best fit within the broader context of the education reform work taking place in Tennessee. The report outlines various options for the governor’s consideration.

“I want to thank the members of the Task Force for the time and effort they spent researching and deliberating what an opportunity scholarship program could look like in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “I look forward to reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations ahead of the upcoming legislative session.”

Haslam’s Task Force, chaired by Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, represented a variety of perspectives on opportunity scholarships and did not reach full agreement on each design element, but found many points of consensus. All Task Force members agreed that the focus of an opportunity scholarship program should be designed to increase options for low-income students.

“I appreciate the thoughtful contributions of each of the members of the Task Force,” Huffman said. “Their serious consideration of this project helped ensure we were able to offer recommendations for the governor, motivated by our shared goal to improve educational outcomes for all students in Tennessee.”

The complete report submitted to Haslam for consideration can also be accessed online at: http://www.tn.gov/education/news/opportunityscholarshipreport.pdf.

Members of the Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships included:

  • Kevin Huffman, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Education, chair
  • Chris Barbic, superintendent, Achievement School District
  • Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville), House Speaker Beth Harwell’s (R-Nashville) designee
  • Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s (R-Blountville) designee
  • Indya Kincannon, Coalition of Large School Systems designee; vice chair, Knox County Board of Education
  • Mary McDonald, independent school community designee; former superintendent, Memphis Catholic Dioceses
  • Gary Nixon, executive director, State Board of Education
  • Jamie Woodson, president and CEO, State Collaborative on Reforming Education
  • Ron Zimmer, associate professor of public policy and education, Vanderbilt University

Governor Appoints Task Force to Study School Vouchers

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Dec. 15, 2011:

Group charged with identifying program that would work for Tennessee

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the formation of a task force to make recommendations on what an opportunity scholarship initiative might look like in Tennessee based on the best available research.

The committee will be tasked with looking at how a program would fit into Tennessee’s overall education reform strategy and that seeks to provide meaningful education options to disadvantaged students.

“I support school choice options and believe that opportunity scholarships could be an impactful tool in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “We should offer alternatives to low-income students and their parents who may feel stuck in failing schools. Charter schools have been a significant part of that process, and it is appropriate to explore additional opportunities.

“There is still work to be done, however, in identifying what an opportunity scholarship program should look like here, and I think those discussions need to happen before legislation is pursued any further in this session. First and foremost, any new program must complement our ongoing efforts to reform education,” Haslam continued.

Members of the Governor’s Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships for Tennessee include:

  • Kevin, Huffman, Commissioner of Education
  • Chris Barbic, Achievement School District Superintendent
  • Gary Nixon, Executive Director of the State Board of Education
  • Ron Zimmer, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University
  • Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s (R-Blountville) designee
  • Rep. Richard Montgomery (R-Sevierville), House Speaker Beth Harwell’s (R-Nashville) designee
  • Jamie Woodson, president & CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)
  • A representative from the Coalition of Large School Systems (CLASS)
  • A representative from the independent school community

The committee will engage a variety of stakeholders including parents, education professionals and business leaders throughout the process and will be charged with presenting recommendations to the governor in the fall of 2012.