NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WKRN) — The Tennessee Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling that declared the state’s school voucher program unconstitutional.
Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Anne Martin had ruled against the law because it only applies to Memphis and Nashville.
Under the plan, students in Davidson and Shelby school districts could attend private schools and pay for it partly with public funds.
The education savings account program is one of Gov. Bill Lee’s signature education initiatives. The General Assembly passed it in 2019 over objections of officials in Davidson and Shelby counties.
“We’re seeing firsthand how school choice could have been tremendously impactful for the thousands of low-income kids who have no available in-person learning option,” Gov. Lee’s press secretary Gillum Ferguson said. “Today’s ruling is disappointing and we will appeal it so families have options for their children.”
The Institute for Justice said in a statement they plan to appeal the decision on behalf of Tennessee parents.
“Today’s ruling treats Tennessee children as mere conduits for channeling money into school district budgets and it ignores that the Tennessee Constitution requires government to serve the people, not extinguish their educational options. We will immediately appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Institute for Justice managing attorney Arif Panju said.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee also announced they plan to take further action.
“While we respect the court’s ruling, we look forward to taking this case to the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Beacon CEO Justin Owen said. “We are confident the Supreme Court will find that the state’s careful attempt to throw a lifeline to parents stuck in the worst performing schools is in fact constitutional. These families are hurt every day that the status quo remains in place and we hope the Supreme Court will give them the educational options they so desperately need and deserve.”
On the other hand, Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart said he agreed with the ruling.
“The Court of Appeals got it right: Governor Lee’s voucher plan is unconstitutional,” Rep. Stewart said. “You can’t have laws that place huge burdens on just two counties.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.