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School voucher applications won't be accepted as issue heads toward appeal

Capitol View
Posted at 5:15 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 21:59:50-04

NASHVILLE,T enn. (WTVF) — A Davidson County judge ruled families won't be able to apply for the state's new school voucher program while an appeals process plays out.

On Monday, Governor Lee's Education Savings Account program was ruled as unconstitutional, and the governor vowed to appeal the decision.

Chancellor Anne Martin denied the defendants’ motion to stay her order declaring the voucher law unconstitutional during a virtual hearing Thursday

Therefore, the voucher program cannot be implemented, and no funds can be expended, during the appeal. Chancellor Anne Martin also set the deadline for voucher applications to be the same day as her ruling. She ordered the state to post a notice on its website notifying the public that the program will not be going forward or accepting applications while the issue goes to appeal.

"The court is more concerned by the mixed messaging the Department of Education since there is no reference to the status or the lawsuit on the website...Whatever happens on appeal will happen, but the current status is the program is not going forward and parents need to be told and to have a plan B," said Judge Martin.

Prior to Thursday's ruling, Gov. Bill Lee took a question during his daily COVID-19 briefing regarding accepting voucher applications.

"Actually we continued to take, to receive, the applications just not to process them…the deadline ends today so we didn’t promote that but if applications continue to come in we continue to receive those applications but not process them," said Lee.

The governor's office released the following statement after the ruling was made:

“While we are disappointed the larger stay was denied, we are pleased that Tennessee families were allowed to continue applying to the program through today’s deadline. We are working closely with the Attorney General to pursue an immediate appeal of the ruling."

It's unclear if that will be the process the state uses, moving forward.