NASHVILLE, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s school voucher plan targeting classrooms could first end up in a courtroom.
Monday, leaders with the Shelby and Davidson County school districts threatened to sue if lawmakers pass the school voucher bill. In a joint statement, the superintendents in those districts slammed the legislation as unconstitutional and arbitrary to only urban districts.
“I applaud both superintendents,” SCS board member Stephanie Love said.
Love is on board with the two largest school districts in Tennessee and their one common message: we will fight any approved school voucher bill in court.
“I say that it’s unconstitutional,” Love said.
The proposed school voucher, or education savings account, legislation would provide up to $7300 in public taxpayer money for parents to use for private school tuition.
After speaking out against school vouchers last week, SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray went a step further Monday, saying, “if they are determined to pass a law that would apply arbitrarily to a limited number of school systems, we will be sure to exhaust all of our legal options.”
For the school voucher proposal to become law, the Tennessee House and Senate must reconcile big differences this week. The Senate’s version would only apply to Memphis and Nashville schools, while the House bill would also include Knoxville and Chattanooga students.
“If it’s good enough for Memphis and Davidson County, it should be good enough for the entire state of Tennessee,” Love said.
While teachers and activists again demonstrated against the legislation Monday afternoon at the Tennessee Capitol Building, the idea is supported by some education advocates in Shelby County.
“50% of our graduates have to take remedial courses when they get to college. Well that means our school system is not doing something right,” Rev. Kenneth Whalum said.
Governor Lee’s office responded late Monday afternoon in a statement. It said: “baseless legal threats distract from the real mission of the education savings account proposal which is giving our children every tool to succeed.”
If a final version of the Tennessee school voucher bill passes, it would take effect for the 2021-2022 school year.