Chancellor strikes down Tennessee private school voucher law

Education

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin struck down the state’s private school voucher law, known as the Education Savings Account (ESA) pilot program on Monday.

The law would have applied only to students in Davidson and Shelby Counties, and Martin ruled that it violated the Home Rule provision of the Tennessee Constitution, which prohibits the General Assembly from passing laws that target specific counties without local approval.

The voucher law was enacted in May 2019 over strong objections of legislators of both counties and would have began in the 2021-2022 school year. Governor Lee accelerated the timeline with plans to issue vouchers starting in the Fall.

“Chancellor Martin’s decision today, granting the counties’ summary judgment motion, now permanently enjoins the state from implementing the unconstitutional voucher program,” said the ACLU in a statement to News 2.

“Nashville, like other cities and counties, must have the authority to determine how investments are made in the best interest of our residents,” said Mayor John Cooper. “We, of course, do not feel that vouchers are a solution for improving public education and will continue to advocate for both our MNPS students and educators.”

Governor Bill Lee’s office released a statement on Wednesday:

“The Attorney General has sought a stay of the court’s decision regarding the future of education savings accounts and our efforts to provide greater educational options for Tennessee families.  While we disagree with the court’s ruling, we respect it and believe we are in full compliance. If there are differences of opinion regarding the specific terms of the court’s order, we expect further clarification, soon. In the meantime, the Department of Education has not and will not be taking any action to process, administer, review applications, or further implement the program until this matter is resolved in the courts.” 

This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.

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