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School Choice & Charters

Private School Vouchers On Lawmakers’ Agendas in Some States

By Katie Ash — January 22, 2014 1 min read

In several states around the country, lawmakers and politicians have been debating the introduction of voucher programs for various populations of students. Vouchers, which allow certain groups of students (usually students with disabilities or low-income students) to receive public funds for private school tuition, are currently in place in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Here’s a roundup of voucher news from the past week in Wisconsin, Tennessee, New Jersey, Indiana, and Louisiana.

• In Wisconsin, some Republicans in the state Senate are pushing to create vouchers for students with special needs, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The proposal echoes a measure that was removed from Gov. Scott Walker’s 2013-15 budget bill. Opponents of vouchers for students with special needs say that private schools are not required to follow federal disability laws and the program could funnel state money into schools that are not qualified to educate those students. Vouchers are also opposed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state teacher’s union.

• In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, has announced his plan to support a school voucher bill during this legislative session, reports The Tennessean. Gov. Haslam said he wants vouchers to be available for low-income students in failing schools—something he pushed for last year as well.

• In his State of the State speech, Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana pushed for pre-K vouchers for low-income students in the state. He later commended the state’s House of Representatives for passing a bill to establish that program, which passed by a wide margin (87-9). The bill will now go to the state Senate for a vote.

• In Louisiana, The Times-Picayune reports that the legal cost of defending the state’s voucher program in a federal lawsuit concerning districts with desegregation orders has reached $770,000.

• And lastly, in New Jersey, some were surprised by the lack of voucher talk in Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State speech, reports the NJ Spotlight. It is one of his first major addresses where he did not explicitly call for the creation of a voucher program for low-income students, observers said, although he did hint at it by saying that students in failing schools should have more choices.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.