Gov. Lee looking at voucher implementation after court ruling

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Posted at 6:08 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 21:19:12-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee said he'll soon be looking into how to implement the Education Savings Account program.

With the Tennessee Supreme Court's decision to rule the school vouchers plan constitutional, the governor said he's encouraged for the program's future.

The controversial plan has drawn criticism from many groups and the governments of both Davidson and Shelby County. ESA's would first be available in those two counties, a decision the counties said violated the Home Rule Amendment.

The court ruled the law doesn't violate the rule because ESA's would govern local education systems and not the county governments themselves.

"This decision by the supreme court will students in Shelby and Davidson county, and as you know it's targeted at students, low income students in lower-performing schools, the majority of which are minority students," Lee said Friday. "We are very hopeful that this will come to fruition and that those kids will have a high-quality option for them as well."

There's not a set date when the voucher program could start. Lee said — before any definitive action would be taken — the courts still have to decide on a separate legal challenge of the law.

Still, he said his office would start looking at the options for implementation.

The state also recently passed the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement funding formula. The governor acknowledged that would have to be a consideration in funding sending students to private charter schools.

"Once we determine the speed with which the court will make its final decision, then we can move forward with the particulars to make sure this works and fits and how it is that we roll it out," he said.

The court's decision drew push back from the county governments and public education advocates, who fear this will stress already tight budgets for education.