Institute for Justice · August 5, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Today, the Chancery Court for Davidson County heard a challenge to the Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program, which gives thousands of low- and middle-income Tennessee families the ability to direct their children’s education as they see fit. The 3-judge panel also rejected both motions seeking a new temporary injunction late this afternoon. The Institute for Justice (IJ), the nation’s leading advocate for school choice, joined by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of Tennessee parents to defend the ESA program’s constitutionality against legal claims pressed by the governments of Nashville and Shelby County and other opponents of educational choice.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity for my children to attend private schools that meet their needs, said IJ client Star Brumfield. It’s been a long journey.”

In May, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the ESA program does not violate the Tennessee Constitution’s Home Rule Amendment, reversing the lower courts that had halted the ESA Program on that basis. Today, the Chancery Court heard, and rejected, new arguments for halting the ESA program a second time based on the equal protection and education clauses of the Tennessee Constitution. The new arguments raised to halt the ESA program once more wrongly claimed that the Tennessee Constitution straps a straitjacket on the General Assembly that prevents them from creating educational options for Tennessee families in addition to the public school system.

“School choice should not wait a day longer in Tennessee and after today’s ruling it won’t, said IJ Senior Attorney Arif Panju. “This second attempt to halt the ESA program and keep children trapped in government-run schools that are failing them fell even shorter than the first failed attempt — the Chancery Court was right to reject it.”

Under the ESA program, qualifying students will receive a scholarship of over to $7,000 for a wide array of educational expenses, including tuition, textbooks and tutoring services. The program is available to qualifying low- and middle-income families like a family of four whose annual income is less than $66,950. Tennessee’s ESA program has received interest from thousands of families, reflecting the national trend of parents and children in other states that have embraced school choice programs.

“We will continue to do everything we can to free the ESA program from this legal maneuvering,” said  co-counsel Meggan DeWitt of the Beacon Center. “The ESA program will now begin serving these families, many of which applied over two years ago.”