NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, a panel of judges for the Davidson County Chancery Court heard arguments in two consolidated cases challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s private school voucher law, which the state began implementing in August.
The plaintiffs – Davidson and Shelby County parents and community members – argued that Tennessee’s voucher program illegally diverts taxpayer funds appropriated for public schools in those counties to private schools. They asserted that the program violates the Tennessee Constitution and state law, exacerbates underfunding of public schools, and treats Davidson and Shelby County students and taxpayers differently from their counterparts across the state.
“My daughter’s public school is wonderful. But it already struggles with funding for textbooks, technology, and enough teachers to keep class sizes down,” said plaintiff Roxanne McEwen, whose child is a student in Metro Nashville Public Schools. “It’s wrong to take money away from our public schools – which serve every child who walks through their doors – when they are already underfunded.”
Private schools participating in the taxpayer-funded voucher program are not obligated to comply with the academic, accountability, and governance standards that apply to public schools. Unlike public schools, private schools can discriminate against students on the basis of religion, LGBTQ status, and other characteristics, as well as refuse to provide services such as special education for students with disabilities.
“The state and the other defendants want the court to throw out this case before the plaintiffs have even had a chance to fully air their claims,” said Chris Wood, partner at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd. “Our clients have asserted multiple violations of the constitution and state law that the court has not yet heard or decided.”
Public school parents and community members in Shelby and Davidson Counties filed McEwen v. Lee in 2020. They are represented by the ACLU of Tennessee, Education Law Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP. The McEwen case has been consolidated with Metro Government v. Tennessee Department of Education, another case challenging the voucher law.
More information about McEwen v. Lee is available at: https://pfps.org/tennessee-voucher-lawsuit/.