SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is looking ahead to the upcoming school year and the state's new school voucher program.
According to Lee, more than 2,000 families in Shelby and Davidson counties have already signed up for it.
“We're very hopeful. The law passed two years ago, and these families have waited a long time for this,” said Gov. Lee.
His goal is to enroll up to 5,000 students this first year.
This program is just for students in Shelby and Davidson counties. It allows eligible families to use up to $7,300 of public tax dollars for private school tuition and other fees.
“There are a lot of families who, who want to have this option for their child,” said Lee. “I believe parents are the best decider for the right fit for education for their children.”
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However, critics argue the vouchers take both public money and young minds away from public schools. Some leaders, like Sen. Raumesh Akbari, are doubtful that this kind of program will even help students.
"We've looked at countless states, Wisconsin included, Florida and Arizona and there's not been a significant increase, if at all in student performance,” said Sen. Akbari. “So you're taking public dollars, giving them to private schools and the students aren't doing better.”
The vouchers max out at $7,300 a year, but the average private school tuition in Shelby County is $10,000 per year. Parents would have to make up the difference.
At last check, 34 schools have signed up for the program in Shelby County.