Plaintiffs in Separate Challenge to Voucher Program Say Program Still Unconstitutional, Will Continue Challenging Law
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued its decision in Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County v. Tennessee Department of Education, a challenge to the Education Savings Account Pilot Program voucher law enacted in 2019. The Supreme Court ruled that the voucher program does not violate the Home Rule Amendment of the Tennessee Constitution, which prohibits the state legislature from passing laws that apply only to certain counties.
A separate lawsuit challenging the voucher law, McEwen v. Lee, was filed in March 2020 by parents from Shelby and Davidson counties. The McEwen plaintiffs contended that diverting millions of dollars intended for Memphis and Nashville public schools to private schools violates not only the Home Rule amendment, but also public school students’ rights to the adequate and equitable educational opportunities guaranteed under the Tennessee Constitution.
The legal team representing the plaintiffs in McEwen v. Lee, a separate lawsuit challenging the voucher law, issued the following statement about today’s decision:
“We are disappointed that the court did not agree with the position of the plaintiffs in Metro Government – shared by the plaintiffs in McEwen v. Lee – that the voucher law targeting only Shelby and Davidson counties clearly violates the Home Rule Amendment’s prohibition on local legislation imposed without local voter approval. However, today’s ruling does not mean the voucher law is constitutional. This voucher legislation violates several other provisions of the Tennessee Constitution, including the Education and Equal Protection clauses, and those claims have yet to be litigated. The McEwen plaintiffs have asserted these constitutional claims from the beginning of the litigation challenging the voucher law, and intend to continue to vigorously pursue them.”
The McEwen plaintiffs are represented by Education Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which collaborate on the Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) campaign to ensure public education funds are used exclusively to maintain, support and strengthen public schools. The plaintiffs are also represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and represented pro bono by the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.
Founded in 1973, Education Law Center is a national leader in advancing the rights of public school students to equal educational opportunity under state and federal law through litigation, policy, advocacy and research. For more information, visit www.edlawcenter.org/.
The ACLU of Tennessee, the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union, is a private, non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization dedicated to defending and advancing civil liberties and civil rights through advocacy, coalition-building, litigation, legislative lobbying, community mobilization and public education. For more information, visit www.aclu-tn.org/.
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP is one of the world’s leading complex litigation firms representing plaintiffs in securities fraud, antitrust, corporate mergers and acquisitions, consumer and insurance fraud, multi-district litigation, and whistleblower protection cases. With 200 lawyers in 9 offices, Robbins Geller has obtained many of the largest securities, antitrust, and consumer class action recoveries in history, recovering tens of billions of dollars for victims of fraud and corporate wrongdoing. Robbins Geller attorneys are consistently recognized by courts, professional organizations and the media as leading lawyers in their fields of practice. Visit www.rgrdlaw.com/.