Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Highlights School Choice and Business Tax Refund in State of the State Address

During his sixth State of the State address on Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee emphasized 2024 as the year to actualize “school choice for every Tennessee family,” despite the fact that the specifics of his prominent education reform have yet to undergo public scrutiny in the General Assembly.

Governor Lee aims to allocate $141.5 million from his proposed $52.6 billion budget towards funding his Education Freedom Scholarships program, a taxpayer-funded initiative designed to cover the costs of private and religious schooling.

In his annual address, Lee articulated, “There are thousands of parents in this state who believe their child would excel in a different educational environment, but are hindered by financial constraints. It is imperative that we alter this reality.” He continued, “It’s time for parents to have the authority to choose—not the government—where their child receives education and what they learn. While some may fear that expanded choices for families could result in reduced resources for public schools, such concerns are unfounded.”

Lee’s proposal received enthusiastic applause from members of his administration and certain GOP lawmakers, though not all members of the Republican supermajority displayed equal enthusiasm for the voucher plan.

However, the education initiative also prompted vehement opposition from individuals in the public gallery, resulting in loud protests and boos that persisted throughout the remainder of Lee’s speech. Despite attempts to proceed with his prepared remarks without acknowledging the interruptions, the governor eventually paused his address due to the continued disruptions from the gallery.