Tennessee lawmakers raised several reservations but ultimately passed Governor Bill Haslam’s school voucher program in its first test.
Two members of the House Education Subcommittee voted no, including one Republican. The former school superintendent says he doesn’t believe public money should be diverted to private schools.
Democrat Joe Pitts of Clarksville voted no after asking if private schools would be forced to still provide a free lunch. Only poor students could qualify for vouchers under the plan.
“I’m just really concerned that we’re targeting that at-risk population, but we’re really not doing anything else to supply that basic human need, which is food,” said Pitts.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says it would be up to the private school whether to feed voucher students at no charge.
The legislation passed easily with the help of two Democrats voting yes.
Possible Medicaid Expansion in Volunteer State?
On a day when the Republican-led state of New Jersey moved to expand it’s Medicaid program, hospitals and Democrats see an opening in Tennessee. The Tennessee Hospital Association released a poll showing a majority of residents want expansion.
Nearly 60 percent of respondents to the hospital association’s poll said the state should accept federal dollars to expand it’s health insurance program for the poor as envisioned in the Affordable Care Act.
THA president Craig Becker says he’s also seen a softening among state lawmakers.
“We started with many of our legislators back in the summertime with basically a ‘hell no.’ Now we’ve moved ourselves much closer I think where they’re willing to be open to hear what we have to say,” said Becker.
Becker claims some rural facilities could close. Because of cuts, he says hospitals need the hundreds of thousands of paying customers Medicaid expansion would provide.
Democrats are also now pushing for an up or down vote. They say they’re tired of waiting for Governor Bill Haslam to make a decision.
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