Yesterday, a judge in Nashville found that Tennessee’s voucher law is unconstitutional. This effectively kills Gov. Bill Lee’s signature legislative achievement and means there won’t be a voucher program in the 2020-21 school year or anytime in the near future.
Here’s a nice summary of the essence of the decision thanks to WPLN:
“The Court finds, based upon the particular criteria in the ESA Act, and upon the legislative history detailing the extensive tweaking of the eligibility criteria in order to eliminate certain school districts to satisfy legislators (rather than tweaking to enhance the merits of the Act) that the legislation is local in form and effect,” Martin ruled. “Additionally, the legislative history of the General Assembly’s consideration and passage of the ESA Act confirms that the Act was intended, and specifically designed, to apply to MNPS and SCS, and only MNPS and SCS.”
As such, Martin found that the law violates the Tennessee Constitution’s Home Rule Amendment.
Gov. Bill Lee indicated the state’s legal team will immediately appeal the decision.
The ruling raises questions about what comes next for a program Lee deemed so essential he funded it in his emergency COVID-19 budget while simultaneously slashing a planned investment in teacher compensation.
Also worth asking: What happens to the $2.5 million no-bid contract awarded to ClassWallet to oversee the doomed program?
The General Assembly seems likely to return for a brief session in early June. Perhaps they’ll redirect the voucher funds BACK to public schools.
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