Nashville, Memphis school districts threaten to sue over vouchers

The school districts covering Nashville and Memphis are threatening to sue the state if the General Assembly passes legislation to enact an expanded school voucher program affecting only their students. The so-called Education Savings Account bill passed both the House and Senate last week, but in competing forms.

Here’s the full release from Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools:

State’s 2 Largest School Districts Oppose Education Savings Account Legislation as Unconstitutional

The Education Savings Account (ESA) legislation violates Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution because it is arbitrarily limited to only a portion of the state when the Constitution requires any Act of the General Assembly to apply statewide unless approved by a local legislative body or through a local referendum.

The language, in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, reflects an arbitrary application to Shelby County Schools (SCS) and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MPNS), as there are school districts such as Madison and Fayette county with larger or nearly the same percentages of schools performing in the bottom 10 percent. The legislation also applies to only certain districts with priority schools from the state’s 2015 priority school list even though there is a more current list from 2018 that includes schools in Campbell, Fayette, Madison and Maury counties. These districts are arbitrarily left out of the legislation.

Should this legislation be signed into law, an immediate constitutional challenge is likely to ensure equal protection under the law. Shelby County is no stranger to asserting and prevailing on such constitutional challenges as reflected in the November 27, 2012 decision in the case of Board of Education of Shelby County Tennessee et al v. Memphis City Board of Education by federal Judge Hardy Mays which rendered a similar bill void that was local in effect.

“If the Governor and Legislature are determined to pass a general law that would apply arbitrarily only to us or a limited number of school systems, we will be sure to exhaust all of our legal options,” said SCS Superintendent, Dr. Joris M. Ray.

“No matter what you call them, vouchers are a bad idea. They are not what we need for public schools. We owe it to this generation of students — and to all of those who follow them – to fight for a system that is fairly funded,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, the MNPS Interim Director.

If the ESA bill becomes law, Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools stand prepared to evaluate and pursue all legal remedies that ensure that the constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law remain intact for the children and families of our districts and state.


11 Responses to Nashville, Memphis school districts threaten to sue over vouchers

  • Avatar
    Lenny says:

    2018: Bill Lee is a businessman outsider. He’ll be able to pass vouchers with no government experience.


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      Leslie Parsley says:

      He’s also a toady of DJT. I hope the whole bunch of these outlaws gets their pants sued off of them.

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      Karen Bracken says:

      He pushed them not because he knows what he is doing but because his benefactors from Betsy DeVos’s American Federation for Children have been pushing ALEC legislation for years. There is a ton of money to be made off these funding schemes and privatization of education but very little good willl come out of this for the kids. Research in every state that has had vouchers for many years proves they are a dismal failure and do not deliver as promised. That is because the promises are based on lies. Bill Lee may know about business but he knows NOTHING about education and the global agenda behind all of these schemes.

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    Paul says:

    Among the many interesting facets of this is a point brought up in the press release. There’s been numerous local initiatives in the larger cities over the years that the legislature has stepped on via legislative processes (new laws) in the name of “we need consistency across the state”. Most recently, there was the issue of “plastic bag bans” that the state pre-empted. But there’s plenty of other examples, with notable ones being the use of “police citizen review boards”, local anti-discrimination laws, and limits on minimum wage laws. In general these are cast as “business consistency” issues. However, the usual impact is on the four largest metro areas in the state, which, of course, have a lot of different issues/needs than a rural area. “Local solutions”, which conservatives used to lobby for, is not considered a factor in these preemption cases and the legislature just loves to kick around the metro areas that are fairly large economic engines for the state from a tax revenue view.

    Oddly enough, in this particular case, the legislature proceeds to single out the two biggest metro areas to be “treated inconsistently” with regard to vouchers. There’s plenty of failing schools in rural areas as well. Wonder why the new approach to “consistency”? To paraphrase Alice In Wonderland, consistency means whatever the TN legislature wants it to mean when it comes to the cities in this state and vouchers in particular. In the case of vouchers, two cities are singled out to support this and the rural areas are allowed to do business as usual. There’s a lot of ugly in this bill and it just keeps on handing it out.

    I’m sure the polite answer from on high is that “this is a pilot”, but why not pilot it in some failing rural schools as well? The answer is, of course, because rural legislators won’t vote for this debacle because it “might impact their schools”. Witness the tangled process to get to this point with exemption and exception to no end.

    What a smoking dumpster fire this is.

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    Mack Charles says:

    For a businessman and outsider, Bill Lee has used some of the most swampy political tactics I’ve seen to pass his voucher bill. Lots of tax dollars flowing to districts of reps voting for the voucher bill. They haven’t even tried to be smooth about it. As someone who voted for Lee, I’m pretty disappointed in how he’s conducted himself.

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      Karen Bracken says:

      Yeah like bribery, intimidation and threats. Any legislation that needs these kind of tactics prove in itself the legislation is not good.

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    James White says:

    ” “police citizen review boards”, local anti-discrimination laws, and limits on minimum wage laws.” I can see that these need to be across the board at the state level, AND the Education bill’s should Too !
    Thanks Paul

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    Karen Bracken says:

    Don’t worry folks this funding scheme may start out in Nashville and Memphis but the agenda to spread it out over the entire state. This is how they get the outlier students from private, religious and home school into the Common Core/SEL/data pipeline. We are also going to see federal money to expand Charters. Charters are how they will destroy public schools, eliminate elected school boards and shut down parental interference. Charters ARE the privatization mechanism. They will become training centers for the planed economy. Convince parents of the career path for their children (won’t matter what the kids want to do) and then set about providing only enough education to meet the requirements of the chosen career pathway. If that career just happens to not be around when the student is ready for work they will have to retrained (life long learning) because they will not have the knowledge to re-steer their own ship. This is what CBE, digital platform are all about. You don’t need grades, grade levels or teachers. The computer will do it all and keep track of the students every word and movement. They will master the skill, move on and when they have mastered all the required skills they will be ready for work…..that could be at 12 or 20. Sounds crazy right? Well it is crazy but it is also factual. PISA the international test was rewritten in 2018 to align to Common Core. This is a global movement and it is being orchestrated by the UN. The proof is out there if people would stop watching the BOOB TUBE and do some real research and reading.

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    MarLE says:

    Test scores prove that Davidson and Shelby county have some of the dumbest school children in the entire country. Now the School Board is showing us that the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

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    Diana Page says:

    I hope that a lawsuit is brought to bring the charter authorization board down, which will hurt public education, as well.

    Lee’s legacy will be one of shame.

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