NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For families who were planning to use the ESA program to send their children to private schools, a decision from a Nashville judge puts that dream on hold indefinitely.
The Monday night decision summoned responses from state and local leaders. One woman who was looking forward to enrolling her daughter in the program says she's disappointed in the judge's decision.
"To me it was pitched as a pilot program. Well, you have to have a test sample to have a pilot. It either succeeds or it fails and then you role it out in waves," said Kelsey Shacklette-Bradley. Shacklette-Bradley's daughter is going into second grade.
The mother has plans to move her daughter into private schools, which is how she learned about ESAs.
"I had no idea it was a thing until I submitted the inquiry for more information," she said. "They said 'Hey, before you apply, fill this out.'"
Shacklette-Bradley said she was going through the application process and heard about the judge's ruling Monday night. The judge ruled ESAs were unconstitutional because they violated Tennessee's "Home Rule". A provision to keep the state from making rules about local communities without the approval of the governments there.
"It's disappointing," she said. "Shelby and Davidson Counties it makes a lot more sense where you see a lot more underprivileged children. I also want them to have the opportunity to have a private education as well where maybe they're getting more attention."
Shacklette-Bradley said she still plans to enroll her daughter in private school. She feels bad for others who wanted to do the same for their kids but can't afford it.
"I want her to have the best shots at colleges. I want her to have the best shots at whatever she chooses to do down the road. A private [school] was offered to me when I was a child and I want to do the same for my children," she said.
The Diocese of Nashville and Memphis released this statement about the ESA ruling Tuesday evening:
"As the bishops of the Diocese of Memphis and Diocese of Nashville whose Catholic Schools are committed to excellent academic standards built upon a faith-based foundation, we represent two of the largest private school systems in the state. We are united in supporting the mission of the Education Savings Account program. It offers real choice to parents looking for alternatives to public schools for their children. The hundreds of people who have applied for the program in Davidson and Shelby Counties clearly show that there is an interest in pursuing high quality education regardless of financial constraints. We are disappointed with the Chancery Court decision that blocks the ESA program and look forward to the case making its way through the appeals process."