Asking for permission after the fact? State seeks judge’s OK to keep taking voucher applications

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at an event in Nashville on April 2, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday declared the state would plow ahead with laying the groundwork for school vouchers while appealing a judge’s ruling that the program is unconstitutional. The governor’s declaration raised eyebrows in legal circles because Nashville Chancellor Anne Martin had explicitly enjoined the state from “implementing and enforcing” the Education Savings Account Act.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office appears to be trying gain some post hoc approval for the governor’s plan to keep encouraging parents to apply for the program while the state appeals the decision. In a court filing submitted to Martin at 10:21 p.m. Tuesday, the defendants “respectfully move to stay the injunction ordered by this Court,” WPLN-FM’s Sergio Martínez-Beltrán reports.

“The trial court’s injunction preventing state officials from implementing and enforcing the ESA Program will result in irreparable injury,” according to the filing. “… Participating students and parents who have begun the application process for participation in the ESA Program are now facing the prospect of returning to underperforming schools.”

Left unsaid in the filing is that nothing in the voucher law limits eligibility to students attending failing schools. The law allows families meeting income requirements whose children attend any public school in Nashville and Shelby to apply.

The Lee administration has pressed ahead with launching the program this fall, much to the consternation of Republican leaders like House Speaker Cameron Sexton. While the controversial state law allows the governor to launch the program this year, it doesn’t actually require the program to go online until the academic year starting in August 2021.

The state’s filing argues that putting a hold on the school voucher program while the appeals are pursued would negatively affect the families of more than 2,500 students who have already applied and could lead private schools to lay off teachers they had hired in anticipation of growing their enrollment.

14 Responses to Asking for permission after the fact? State seeks judge’s OK to keep taking voucher applications

  • TR says:

    I’ve been a big fan of Bill Lee, but his zealotry on this issue is concerning. Let it go man, just let it go. No one outside of big money education lobbyists want this and it only passed because Casada and his boy band of overpaid coke heads were twisting arms, cajoling and handing out goodies in exchange for votes.

    • JB says:

      Then explain the 2500 applications and more than 6000 requests for information. You think those are the kids of the “big money education lobbyists?” You obviously haven’t talked to the parents in the SCS or Metro Nashville school districts recently.

      • TR says:

        Really, just a couple of days ago it was reported in the Commercial Appeal that less than 300 applications for ESAs were on track for approval for the 5000 available spots in Shelby and Davidson counties. In all 913 families in Shelby and 530 families in Davidson had started, but not completed online applications. The deadline is tomorrow. That’s hardly a groundswell of TN families clamoring for ESA. It just seems like that $38 million budgeted for the program could be better spent elsewhere when we’re in the middle of the largest economic crisis in American history.

  • John Stewart says:

    The proper response in this situation is clear: hold the Governor in contempt of court and indicate that the Court will impose appropriate punishment if the Governor continues to flout the court order. All the Law and Order cheerleaders who regularly respond in this column will, I am confident, agree that the Governor is in contempt. As we all know well, no one is above the law.

  • steve cates says:

    Lee is SO weak and evidently his advisers are as well ( Likes Do attract!). He displays his “faith” constantly and then disobeys a court decision(and continues to refuse to accept insurance that the federal government will provide for about 300,000 of our fellow citizens through a medicaid expansion). Pitiful!

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I know how liberals love to forum shop in order for liberal judge(s) to do their bidding when they aren’t successful using the usual workings of democracy, but do you think that rulings of low level courts that are under appeal have some sort of biblical imperative behind them? Actually, Lee is showing unusual strength of purpose in continuing to fight the Government School Trust in his determination to bring the benefits of the free market in educating Tennessee’s children. (And pssssst, Steve, nobody but a few lefties cares about expansion of Medicaid that we may have to pay for in a few years, so why do you liberals keep banging-on about it every chance you get?)

      • Paul says:

        Hate to point this out Stuart, but we are all paying now for the uninsured. There is no “we may have to pay in the future”. We are paying N-O-W for these folks when they need care and have no insurance. It’s basically a conservative medical tax by another name, but conservatives like to call it “the free market” since it’s folded into everyone’s medical bills. To paraphrase the old Fram oil filter commercial, “you can’t pay me now or pay me later, you’re just going to pay”. As conservatives like to point out, there is no free lunch and there’s not one here either, you guys just like to pretend there is when it’s inconvenient to your case about “government healthcare” being inherently evil and wasteful or a Commie plot. The rest of us might take it more seriously if you pushed to abolish Medicare or something that really did enable the free market that conservatives oh-so-delight in claiming will solve all problems. But I think the over 65 set might find that particular nirvana to be a myth. Seriously, you can’t believe that we are not paying for the uninsured now versus “later” when we might have to pay if we expanded Medicaid? You think those hospitals and such are just eating the entire cost now?

        By the same token, we do all pay for the outcome of poor education, I suspect we do agree on that. But throwing money at a bunch of vouchers and “the education free market” gospel is not the answer. I’ll say it again, when I see conservatives in TN voting to take money away from their own public schools for this particular pie-in-the-sky, it might have more relevance than vouchers for thee in the urban areas, but not for me in my rural area approach. The good news is the more time wasted on this, the less time for conservatives to hose up something else in this state. Like, oh, say, further increases in the large number of uninsured that the rest of us are all paying for through the back door of higher rates. Or maybe closing a few more rural hospitals since they aren’t making enough of a buck in “the free market” conserv-utopia land of milk and honey we are all going to live in when the goal of no government supported anything for anyone is achieved.

        • Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Conservatives have not controlled the Republican Party since the mid-1930’s except for a few moments in time during the Reagan administration. The present system of funding health care in this country is NOT based on a conservative model, rather it is the product of the relentless pressure by the political left to socialize health care by placing at least its funding in the hands of the federal government, and even the furnishing of care, and the pathetic inability of the Republican Party to come up with a rationale to oppose this socialization. As a result what we have is a hybrid system that is not defensible under conservative principles, but rather represents Republican success thus far in digging in its heels to preserve the profits of insurance companies and large hospital and drug corporations in the face of Democratic pressure thus protecting the Republican Establishment’s primary constituency in the Chamber of Commerce, Business Round Table, et al.

          As a contrast, in broad terms a conservative model of health care would place care in the hands of private enterprise providers and insurance companies competing with one another with insurance to be bought by individuals from the insurance company with the best price for the coverage. Government at the state level should only be involved in providing coverage for the indigent and the uninsurable. There would be few uninsured otherwise because anyone without health insurance would be subject to being sued for their medical bills under circumstances that few would dare to walk around without health insurance.

          Finally, I will say it again, let there be a free market in education where there are enough students and wealth to support a free market. Given compulsory education requirements government schools are, of course, appropriate where a free market is not possible. There is no gainsaying the political power of the Government School Trust made up of school boards, educational bureaucrats, teachers, etc. that serve to make establishment of such a free market difficult, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort to do so.

  • Beatrice Shaw says:

    Vouchers are a terrible idea. They will begin to erode the strongest cornerstone in our country-public education. Those that support them are very misinformed. A solid public education system must continue to be supported by all parties and peoples or we will produce children without the skills to live in a modern world.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      So Beatrice, how was Singapore? I assume you visited the island and you were so impressed with the schools that you are addressing yourself to proposals about reforming those government schools that are often rated tops in the world.

      Of course, we really should concentrate on the United States where our standing is dismal considering we spend more on educating our students than every other country on earth other than Norway. As for results, Pearson Rankings puts us at #14, the OECD places our students at #28 in math and science. I too wish our students achieved at the level of the students in Singapore, Japan and South Korea, but in order to do that we will need innovation and creativity in education that can only come from an end to the monopoly of government schools and the adoption of a free market system.

  • Charles Sumner says:

    This Anderson bloke has a one-tract mind.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Indeed I do Charles, it’s a tract that emphasizes freedom and liberty for as many as possible which means never tiring of carefully constraining the enemy of freedom and liberty – GOVERNMENT.

  • Gail McPeak says:

    Sucks to be Stuart . ……..

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      On the contrary Gail, it’s a most wonderfully uplifting thing that I would love to extend to you if I only could.

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