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Lynn hopes education bill opens door to vouchers

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By ZACK OWENSBYThe Wilson Post

Because of some small, discrete wording in a section of the governor’s Race To The Top Bill, some are holding out hope that it will lead to the introduction of a school vouchers program if the bill is passed.

State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Lebanon, said she was so shocked by the wording and the possibility of education reform, she formally requested her original vote of no to be changed on the basis of closer inspection of the oft-amended bill. 

The state House and Senate were placed under a deadline to pass the education bill by Gov. Phil Bredesen in an attempt to win federal grant money possibly totaling $465 million.

Upon her first reading, Lynn said she was not impressed with the education reform bill, or the lack of reform thereof.

But the wording that peaked Lynn’s interest was in regard to the state’s ability to take over a struggling school. Previously, the state has had the power, but fiscally it was unfeasible.

The bill refers to the Tennessee Department of Education’s ability to contract with other government entities, non-profit organizations, as well as individuals. This inclusion of “individuals,” Lynn hopes, is the start of a movement toward school vouchers.

With this inclusion in the bill, Lynn said “we’re definitely going to test the waters on school vouchers. I feel like we finally have a bill that really addresses education reform.”

Lynn said the students she is most interested in obtaining school vouchers for are those at habitually underperforming schools and students with disabilities.

Real education reform was her main concern, Lynn said, considering even Lynn herself does not believe Tennessee will be awarded the grant even after the legislation passes. And she stated many of her colleagues on Capitol Hill agree that Tennessee is a long-shot at getting the money.

State Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, voted no on the bill, citing the 10th Amendment, the right of the states to make their own decisions on their matters.

Beavers believes the bill was passed too hastily and is only aimed at securing federal money, not reforming the state’s educational system.

According to Beavers, the bill may or may not take effect even after it is passed. She claims if Tennessee is not awarded the grant, the legislation will not go into effect.

Lynn disputed that fact, citing directly from the bill, that upon approval, the legislation will go into effect.

State Rep. Stratton Bone, D-Lebanon, could not be reached for comment before press time.

Staff Writer Zack Owensby may be contacted at zowensby@wilsonpost.com.

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