Vouchers Tennessee - April 2019

People protest against school vouchers Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Roughly 50 teachers, parents and other education advocates participated in a demonstration at Tennessee's Capitol, where they voiced concerns about Gov. Bill Lee's support of education savings accounts. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) — A judge has ruled that the controversial Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA) Pilot Program, which was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee last year, is unconstitutional.

Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin ruled that the ESA Act was in violation of the Home Rule Amendment in the state constitution, because the law only applied to Davidson County and Shelby County. Officials from both Nashville and Memphis filed lawsuits against the state.

The ESA program, commonly referred to as the school voucher bill, diverts tax dollars to private education. Families would receive $7,300 in state money every year. They could use that money to pay for their child's private school tuition.

The bill narrowly passed the state House of Representatives, 50-48. Lee signed it into law.

“Nashville, like other cities and counties, must have the authority to determine how investments are made in the best interest of our residents,” said Mayor John Cooper in a statement following Chancellor Martin's ruling. “We, of course, do not feel that vouchers are a solution for improving public education and will continue to advocate for both our MNPS students and educators.”

Metro Director of Law Bob Cooper also released a statement. "This is an important ruling for local governments in Tennessee,” he said. “It reaffirms the constitutional right of counties and cities to be free of state legislation that targets select jurisdictions without their approval.”

The state plans to appeal the decision.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling and will swiftly appeal on behalf of Tennessee students who deserve more than a one-size-fits-all approach to education," said Gillum Ferguson, Lee's spokesperson.

This is a developing story. Stay with News4 for updates.

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