A judge ruled that the Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA) Pilot Program is unconstitutional, and a nonpartisan think tank says that could harm children.
Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin on Monday ruled that the ESA Act was in violation of the Home Rule Amendment in the Tennessee constitution, WSMV said. The pilot applies only to Davidson and Shelby counties. Gov. Bill Lee signed it into law last year.
The program, (school voucher), sends some tax dollars to private education. Families would receive $7,300 in state money every school year to pay for their child’s private school tuition.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee said Monday in a statement that it “respectfully disagrees with today’s ruling from the Davidson County Chancellory Court that the ESA program is unconstitutional.”
This decision harms children in Davidson and Shelby County who are looking for a lifeline to receive a quality education starting this upcoming fall.
Educational choice has consistently been deemed constitutional by courts across the country; this program does not unconstitutionally single out or even apply to specific cities or counties, it applies to underperforming school districts. For this reason, Beacon believes this program will ultimately be upheld by the courts despite today’s setback.
Beacon CEO Justin Owen stated, “While we are disappointed about today’s ruling, the fight is far from over. Beacon will continue to do everything we can to fight on behalf of families all the way to the state Supreme Court to ensure that they are able to participate in this program this fall and beyond, just as Gov. Lee and the legislature intended.”
A legal motion filed April 6 in the Chancery Court for Davidson County had asked to halt the implementation of the ESA Program, The Tennessee Star reported at the time.
The motion was filed by the ACLU of Tennessee and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of parents and community members in Shelby and Davidson County who filed a lawsuit against the program. The motion asked for a temporary injunction to “stop the implementation of the law” because it would “illegally siphon much-needed taxpayer funds away from” public schools.
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