Metro Nashville, Shelby County to sue state over school voucher law

Posted at 11:19 AM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 20:45:28-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The City of Nashville will sue the State of Tennessee over its voucher law. At a Metropolitan Board of Education special meeting on Thursday, school board members called the law unconstitutional.

Shelby County will join the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

Mayor John Cooper and Metro Law Director Bob Cooper spoke at the meeting to announce the lawsuit.

The city plans to challenge the legality of the Education Savings Accounts (ESA) plan – also known as the school voucher plan.

The plan put forward by Governor Bill Lee would provide families with about $7,300 to spend for tuition and certain related expenses at participating private schools.

Larger cities like Nashville and Memphis have criticized the plan because they worry it will take state money away from public schools.

State senators who support ESAs said they aren't sure why the cities believe they will lose money. The state will backfill all the lost funds for three years for each student that leaves public schools.

"They get additional money for a child they don't have to provide a desk for, a teacher for, books for, a building for, transportation for, they just get additional money that they can hopefully use to try to turn that school around," said Franklin Republican Jack Johnson.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally also expressed his disappoint over Nashville's decision to sue the state. He said that money would be better used to try to fix Nashville's failing school system.

The Tennessee Federation for Children released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“The American Federation for Children is extremely disappointed to hear that Mayor Cooper has sued to stop the Education Savings Account program passed last year by the Tennessee General Assembly. Nashville is a city where just one out of four public school students can read on grade level, and we should be giving parents every opportunity we can to ensure their children receive the education they deserve. The rate is even lower for students of color or those with less means. Our research and polling shows 70 percent of Americans support this as an option--and we should be listening to parents, not blocking their child’s access to a better future. I urge Mayor Cooper, who has been committed to getting the city’s budget back on track, to reconsider this costly litigation and think of those students who are counting on this option.”

Watch the announcement below: