NASVHILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The “final roadblock” for school vouchers in Davidson and Shelby counties has been lifted by the Davidson County Chancellor, and the governor is ready to start enrolling parents in the Education Savings Account (ESA) pilot program.
The court originally ordered an injunction prohibiting implementation of the program while the matter made its way through the courts.
The order, issued by Davidson County Chancellor Anne Martin, lifted that injunction, allowing the governor’s office to move forward with the pilot program.
“Today the court removed the final roadblock to getting Memphis and Nashville families additional options for high-quality education,” said Gov. Lee. “Starting today, we will work to help eligible parents enroll this school year, as we ensure Tennessee families have the opportunity to choose the school that they believe is best for their child.”
The matter has been tied up in court battles for years, eventually making its way up to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The controversial program would allow parents in Memphis and Nashville to enroll in the ESA to allow their children to attend private schools in those counties using public funds. Proposed by Gov. Bill Lee and enacted in 2019, the plan would cost an estimated $125 million over five years and allow 5,000 students in certain low-income school districts to receive up to $7,300 to pay for approved expenses.
But the plan did not get very far, as it was blocked by Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin in May of 2020, who said the plan violated the Home Rule provision in the Tennessee Constitution. That provision prohibits the General Assembly from passing laws that target specific counties without local approval.
Leaders in both counties voiced strong opposition to the program; the governor, however, moved forward with the plan, attempting to get it off the ground in the fall of 2020 before the Chancellor struck it down.
The governor’s office quickly appealed the decision to higher courts, but the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld Martin’s ruling in September of that year.
Eventually, the Tennessee Supreme Court overruled the appeals court.