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Report: Tennessee statewide ESA bill will not proceed this year

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(The Center Square) – Tennessee’s statewide educational savings account bill will not move forward, Gov. Bill Lee told the Tennessean in a statement on Monday morning.

The bill had been held in the Senate and House Finance, Ways and Means committees and subcommittees while the two bodies worked to discuss details of the bill and gather support.

But Lee told the newspaper that the bill will have to wait another year.

“I am extremely disappointed for the families who will have to wait yet another year for the freedom to choose the right education for their child, especially when there is broad agreement that now is the time to bring universal school choice to Tennessee,” Lee said in an early Monday statement. “While we made tremendous progress, unfortunately it has become clear that there is not a pathway for the bill during this legislative session.”

Lee’s announcement came a week after the Tennessee Journal reported the bill was dead for this session.

The bills each had a significant number of ESAs worth $7,075 the first year to be spent by students and families on school-related expenses such as private school tuition.

Both had 20,000 ESAs statewide starting in the fall with eligibility determined on some level by income.

Overall, the Senate Education Freedom Scholarship program is estimated to cost nearly $100,000 in the first year and then more than $300,000 annually in subsequent years.

A major difference in the Senate version was to allow students to use the ESAs to enroll in a public school outside their home district as well.

The estimated impact on transferred public school funding was estimated at $48.5 million in the first year and more than $107 million in the years that followed.

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