Tennessee Supreme Court Finds Gov. Lee's Education Savings Account Pilot Program Constitutional

On Wednesday, the Davidson County Chancery Court lifted an injunction on Gov. Bill Lee’s Education Savings Account program, which will allow certain students in Nashville and Memphis to use public education funds to attend private schools.

Lee says eligible families will be able to utilize ESAs for the coming school year. The Tennessee Department of Education will release more ESA information on its website “in the coming days.”

The controversial legislation narrowly passed in 2019, but has not yet been implemented after being held up in court for several years. Shelby and Davidson counties sued the state over the ESA program, arguing it’s unconstitutional because it targets only Memphis and Nashville. Though the the Davidson County Chancery Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals initially ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in Lee's favor. The Supreme Court appeals process was delayed due to the death of Justice Cornelia Clark in September. A specially appointed judge ultimately filled in for Clark and sided with the state. 

“Today the court removed the final roadblock to getting Memphis and Nashville families additional options for high-quality education,” said Lee via a press release. “Starting today, we will work to help eligible parents enroll this school year, as we ensure Tennessee families have the opportunity to choose the school that they believe is best for their child.”

Critics of the ESA program argue that it will drain funds from public schools.