NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Latest on Gov. Bill Lee's budget and State of the State address (all times local):
Education groups are offering mixed responses to Gov. Bill Lee's proposal to spend $25 million for a new education savings accounts program in Tennessee.
Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown said Monday that the proposal sparked concerns because ESAs are "vouchers with less accountability." Brown added that teachers currently struggle to pay for classroom supplies and the state should help public school classroom and not pay for a program that could harm student achievement.
Meanwhile, pro-voucher group Tennessee Federation for Children State Director Shaka Mitchell says Lee's ESA program reaffirms the state's commitment to school choice.
Lee's plan would allow parents of students in certain low-income districts with three or more schools ranked in the bottom 10 percent to receive $7,300 from a government-authorized account to pay for approved expenses.
Gov. Bill Lee's budget calls for a $50 million economic development infrastructure grant for Volkswagen, which plans to expand its Chattanooga plant and create 1,000 jobs there as it gears up for electric vehicle production beginning in 2022.
The budget proposal Lee released Monday offered the first look at the state dollar total sought for the project.
In January, Volkswagen announced that the Tennessee factory will be the focus of an $800 million investment in its manufacturing of electric vehicles in North America.
The factory will produce a vehicle using a modular chassis the company has said will help build electric vehicles for the mass market. Volkswagen currently builds two vehicles in Chattanooga.
Volkswagen said it posted an annual sales record in 2018. The company has paid more than more than $31 billion in fines and settlements after it was caught installing software that let cars cheat on U.S. emissions tests.
Top Republicans say Gov. Bill Lee will soon unveil a proposal geared toward boosting school choice in Tennessee.
Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter told House Republicans on Monday that Lee's upcoming budget for the upcoming fiscal year will include $25 million for a new education savings accounts plan, but details are still being finalized.
GOP House Majority Leader William Lamberth added that the governor's proposal will not impact the state's current school funding formula.
Currently, Tennessee allows parents of students with certain disabilities to withdraw their children from public school and then receive up to $6,000 to pay for private educational services.
Lee is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address to lawmakers later Monday.