Tennessee School Choice

Tennessee Parents Intervene in Court to Defend ESA Program

In May 2019, Tennessee enacted the Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program Act, giving thousands of low- and middle-income families in Tennessee with greater school choice as early as the 2020-21 school year.  The Institute for Justice is intervening on behalf of two parents, Natu Bah and Builguissa Diallo, to defend the program from a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. The program provides scholarships worth up to $7,300 to families from Shelby County and Metro Nashville school districts to send their children to private schools.

To be eligible, children must come from households earning less than 200 percent of the federal free lunch program, which means there’s an income cap of about $67,000 for a family of four. As a result, 60% of Nashville and Shelby County families are eligible1. The program would be capped at 15,000 students but could be expanded by future legislation.

On February 6, 2020,  Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced a lawsuit against the program on behalf of Davidson County, Shelby County, and the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education alleging that the program violates the Tennessee Constitution.

The Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate for school choice, is defending the program on behalf of parents from two children who are eligible to receive ESAs under the program.

Tennessee School Choice

Date Filed

February 10, 2020

Original Court

Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee

Current Court

Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee

Case Status



Media Contact

  • Conor Beck
    Communications Project Manager

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