A national group advocating for a large-scale school voucher program in Tennessee is launching a massive media campaign to persuade lawmakers to expand the program proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
An official familiar with the plans told The Associated Press on Friday that the state chapter of the American Federation for Children is spending $800,000 on broadcast television, cable and radio advertising - a vast amount for political advertising or issue advocacy in the state.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the group has not made the amount public.
Haslam told reporters this week that he plans to stick with the narrower plan he proposed in his State of the State address, which he predicted would be "hotly debated" anyway.
Haslam's proposal would limit the program to 5,000 students in failing schools in the school year that begins in August, and grow to 20,000 by 2016.
"We didn't just decide to pick a point where we thought, 'Oh, this can get passed,' " Haslam said. "We really did pull a lot of people in to go through a thoughtful process about what we think is right for Tennessee right now."
Haslam declined to say whether he would veto a bill that significantly goes beyond his proposal.
"I always hate to give ultimatums on things," he said. "But we're going to be very clear to everyone that we're for our bill."
Haslam last year persuaded the legislature to defer taking up voucher proposals while a task force he appointed studied the various options about which families should be eligible to use public money to send their children to private schools.