Governor defends process of getting school vouchers started this year

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In the wake of criticism this week from some lawmakers of his own party, Governor Bill Lee is staunchly defending efforts to get his school voucher plan up and running this year.

“We are working to make sure it’s done in the right way,” the governor told reporters Thursday.

But is the right way a more-than-budgeted a grant the state department of education made with a private vendor to get the Education Savings Account (ESA) or school voucher program running by August?

Several House lawmakers this week questioned that the grant was not a contract put out for competitive bid.

The grant being costlier than budgeted by lawmakers drew questions as well.

“The legislature appropriated 750-thousand dollars and then they entered into a whatever–grant or contract– of 2-point five million dollars,” said Republican Representative Mathew Hill during the House appropriations subcommittee he chairs.

The education department’s commissioner defended the process during the testy two-hour hearing on Wednesday.

A day later, Governor Lee took on what he called detractors.

“I care more about kids in this state than I do about a process that is trying to be hampered by those who are detractors to a process,” said the governor.

The governor reiterated he has no intention of slowing down the voucher plan that gives students in low performing Nashville and Memphis schools more than 7-thousand dollars yearly for what would likely be private school tuition.

The ESA voucher plan is a three-year pilot program scheduled for 5000 students this year and up to 15-thousand students by year three.

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