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Rise & Shine: Paying for education vouchers in Tennessee

Good morning,

Gov. Bill Lee says there's funding to develop the state's education savings account program to launch next summer — a year earlier than initially touted. The legislature approved $770,000 this year for startup expenses as lawmakers gave the state education department a two-year deadline to enroll students in the voucher program.

Lee's initial budget proposal set aside $25 million this year to be used to reimburse school districts in Memphis and Nashville for their losses once the program begins. However, the governor later shifted the allocation to combat hepatitis C in the state’s prisons, explaining that the voucher money wouldn’t be needed this fiscal year.

In related news, state education commissioner Penny Schwinn named her deputy commissioner Amity Schuyler to oversee development of the education savings program. “She comes from Florida where they already have education savings accounts, she’s done lots of voucher-ESA work, and she understands what it’s like from a district perspective,” Schwinn said of Schuyler.

And finally, we're hoping to hear from you in our callout for stories about your experiences with busing and desegregation of Memphis public schools. We'll publish a selection of your responses soon.

— Jacinthia Jones, bureau chief

VOUCHER FUNDING Gov. Bill Lee says Tennessee has enough funding to develop its new education voucher program in time for a launch late next summer, one year earlier than required under a new state law. Chalkbeat

VOUCHER LEADERSHIP A top aide recruited from a large Florida school district will oversee development of Tennessee’s controversial education voucher program for students in Memphis and Nashville. Chalkbeat

SCHOOL FAIR A Memphis church is hosting a back-to-school fair for students that will offer free dental and vision screenings, immunizations, and school supplies. The Commercial Appeal

BALANCED BUDGET Hamilton County Schools leaders presented a new $410 million balanced budget to the school board for consideration, after the system’s initial $443 million fiscal year 2020 budget request was shot down by the Hamilton County Commission last month. Chattanooga Times Free Press

DISCIPLINE GUIDELINES Hamilton County Schools board members say the district’s new guidelines for student behavior and discipline won’t be effective without consistency. Chattanooga Times Free Press

TEACHER PIPELINE Most college students who are interested in teaching never make it to the classroom. Education Week

OUTSIDE INFLUENCE Billionaire Charles Koch’s powerful network that’s known for influencing state policy is now targeting education issues like school choice as the movement battles a new wave of hostility from Democrats who oppose charter schools and private school vouchers that use taxpayer money. Associated Press