Tennessee Supreme Court Hands Governor Lee Massive Victory on School Vouchers

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Governor Bill Lee’s school voucher program is constitutional. The voucher program only applies to failing schools in Davidson County and Shelby County.

The court said in a statement, “The Tennessee Supreme Court determined that, while two Tennessee county governments had standing to challenge the Education Savings Account Pilot Program (the “ESA Act”), the Act is not rendered unconstitutional by the Home Rule Amendment, article XI, section 9, of the Tennessee Constitution.”

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Shelby County Government, and Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education had filed suit against named defendants Bill Lee, the Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner, and the Tennessee Department of Education. Additional parties were allowed to intervene and participate as defendants.

According to the Tennessee Supreme Court statement, the complaint “alleged that the ESA Act violates several provisions of the Tennessee Constitution, including the Home Rule Amendment, the equal protection clauses, and the education clause.”

The Tennessee Supreme Court said in its statement that it “granted Defendants’ applications for permission to appeal. Because it is an interlocutory appeal, the issues before the Court were limited to the constitutionality of the ESA Act under the Home Rule Amendment and Plaintiffs’ standing to bring that challenge. The Supreme Court agreed with both the trial court and the Court of Appeals that Plaintiffs Metro and Shelby County had standing to bring their Home Rule Amendment Claim.”

“However, the Supreme Court, after reviewing the applicable constitutional language, held that the ESA Act is not rendered unconstitutional by the Home Rule Amendment because the Act is not “applicable to” the Plaintiff counties for purposes of the Amendment,” it continued. “The majority concluded that the ESA Act is not applicable to the Plaintiff counties because the Act regulates or governs the conduct of the local education agencies and not the counties. Thus, the Act does not violate the Home Rule Amendment.”

“The Supreme Court therefore affirmed, in part, and reversed, in part, the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the trial court for the dismissal of the Home Rule Amendment claim and for consideration of Plaintiffs’ remaining claims,” the statement said.

Chief Justice Roger A. Page wrote the majority opinion. Justices Jeffrey Bivins and Thomas Frierson joined. Justice Sharon Lee filed an opinion that both concurred in part and dissented in part, which Justice Holly Kirby Joined. Justice Sarah Campbell did not participate.

The majority opinion concluded:

For the reasons stated herein, the Court affirms, albeit on different grounds, the judgment of the Court of Appeals that Plaintiffs have standing to pursue their constitutional challenge to the ESA Act under the Home Rule Amendment. The Court, however, reverses the judgment of the Court of Appeals on that claim and holds that the ESA Act is not implicated by the Home Rule Amendment and so is not rendered unconstitutional pursuant to that Amendment. Thus, the judgment of the trial court with respect to Plaintiffs’ claim under the Home Rule Amendment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the trial court for entry of a judgment dismissing that claim, for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, and for consideration of Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. Costs on appeal are taxed to Plaintiffs, for which execution may issue if necessary.

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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow Aaron on GETTRTwitter, and Parler.
Background Photo “Tennessee Supreme Court” by Jon698. CC BY-SA 4.0.



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5 Thoughts to “Tennessee Supreme Court Hands Governor Lee Massive Victory on School Vouchers”

  1. william r. delzell

    No, Charles Falugo, the only time that Republicans support parental choice is only from parents who share the Tea Party’s right-wing agenda. The Republicans choose to ignore the concerns of progressive, moderate, and non-white parents. This is not about parental choice!

  2. LakeDweller

    Charles is right. Jay is wrong. Democrats hate children—those they abort and this who they sentence to horrible failing schools. SOME Republicans want to give poor black kids a chance to get a good education and escape the Democrat plantation. Of course RINOs are no better than Democrats.

  3. Charles Falugo

    Shame on Republicans?? Republicans are the party that supports parental school choice!

  4. Ruth Petrucci

    This article would be better if info explained ,the Home Rule Amendment, so the reader would understand what exactly the governor won.

  5. Jay

    Shame on republicans. Every student in a failed public school should have an option.