In Government of Nashville v. Tennessee Department of Education, the Liberty Justice Center represents the two school leaders and three families who would qualify to participate in the Education Savings Account (ESA) Pilot Program for the 2020-2021 school year. The ESA Pilot Program provides scholarships to low-income families assigned to the schools that are consistently and historically the lowest-performing in the state. The families can use the scholarship funds to attend schools that provide better education opportunities for their children.
The excerpt of the article below by Chuck Morris appeared on February 4, 2021 on News4 Nashville.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal on the constitutionality of Gov. Bill Lee’s Education Savings Account pilot program to provide low-income students in Nashville and Memphis with a $7,000 scholarship to attend the school of their choice.
The Supreme Court issued an order agreeing to hear the appeal on Thursday.
The appeal was filed by Liberty Justice Center, the Beacon Center of Tennessee and others in November on behalf of parents and schools who hope to participate in the program.
“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court has decided to take this important case to protect the rights of thousands of low-income students to attend the school that best fits their needs,” said Brian Kelsey, senior attorney at Liberty Justice Center, in a news release. “Tennessee students and families now have the opportunity to be heard and continue their fight to narrow gaps in educational inequality and access.”
“Not only is the ESA program constitutional, but it is also necessary for families who need a choice,” said Braden Boucek, Beacon Vice President of Legal Affairs, in a statement. “Whether due to problems with district-mandated remote learning due to COVID-19 or just trying to find a school that needs the needs of their children, families deserve a say in their children’s education. We are confident that the Tennessee Supreme Court will rule that this program is constitutional and allow it to move forward.”
In 2019 Lee signed a law that provides scholarships of around $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 learning needs. The program is the first of its kind exclusively for low-income families in Tennessee.
The Liberty Justice Center said in a release that this type of program has proven effective and critical in other parts of the country, including Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada and Washington, DC.
In February 2020, Metro Nashville, Metro Nashville Board of Education and Shelby County government filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court to block the program.
In May 2020, Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin blocked the program going into effect, ruling the program as unconstitutional.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of Martin after hearing the case in August.
Read the full article on News4 Nashville.