NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 5, 2020) – Attorneys at the nonprofit Liberty Justice Center have announced that they will be appealing a Tennessee judge’s ruling that blocks a new scholarship program for low-income families from going into effect. The ruling came down on Monday night.
A group of parents and school leaders represented by the Liberty Justice Center, a national Supreme Court case-winning law firm, is fighting to protect Education Savings Account (ESA) Pilot Program so their children and students have the opportunity to escape poor-performing public schools.
Nashville Chancellor Anne C. Martin’s ruling is not the end of this case. While opponents of the law may have won the first round on ESAs, there are two rounds left to help our schools, parents and students. Chancellor Martin is allowing an appeal of her order right away. Liberty Justice Center will appeal the ruling all the way to the state Supreme Court.
“Our students deserve the chance for a quality education this August. We will appeal to every court necessary to get them there,” said Brian Kelsey, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “Instead of focusing on what’s best for students in their counties, the mayors of Nashville and Shelby County are wasting taxpayer dollars to stop students from pursuing the best educational opportunities for their needs. The school leaders and families we represent will not stop until children can escape failing schools.”
All students who would qualify for the ESA program scholarships currently attend the two school systems that are consistently and historically the lowest performing in the state: Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and Shelby County Schools. Their families do not have the economic means to move to areas with higher quality schools.
BACKGROUND: In 2019, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a law that provides scholarships of approximately $7,000 to children from low-income families in Nashville and Memphis. Families can use these scholarships to attend a school of their choice that fits their unique learning needs. This program is the first of its kind exclusively for low-income families in Tennessee. This type of program has proven effective and critical in other parts of the country, including Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada and Washington D.C.
On February 7, 2020, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education and Shelby County Government filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tenn. to block the program. On March 2, 2020, a group of families with public school students represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and American Civil Liberties Union filed an additional lawsuit. The ESA program is set to begin in August 2020.
Liberty Justice Center’s case documents are available here.