Voucher Supporters Urge Judicial Panel To Dismiss Lawsuit

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Supporters of expanding school vouchers in Tennessee argued Monday that the program does not take away from families who want their children to remain in public schools as they once again asked a state court to dismiss the ongoing lawsuit challenging the statute's legality.

The hearing was the latest development in the yearslong legal battle over the contentious voucher program, known as education savings accounts. Under the law, eligible families are given around $8,100 in public tax dollars to help pay for private schooling tuition and other preapproved expense.

While the Republican-controlled Legislature approved the voucher program in 2019, the state has only been recently allowed to begin implementing the law this summer after the Tennessee Supreme Court lifted a key legal obstacle.

Opponents, which include Nashville, Shelby County and a handful of families, have continued fighting the program. On Monday, attorneys representing those groups maintained that schools and students would be negatively impacted by the voucher program because school districts lose money for every student that participates in the voucher program.

Currently, schools get a certain amount of funding based on student enrollment. The concern has been that under the education savings account program, students who leave public school districts to participate in the voucher program would take that funding with them.

Lawmakers did agree to allow participating public schools to continue to be fully reimbursed for losing students, but that provision is temporary.

“It does harm the parents and their children when other parents use a voucher because the Legislature decided to use school funding to fund those vouchers,” said attorney Allison Bussell.

A three-judge panel listening at the hearing did not give an exact date when their ruling on whether to dismiss the lawsuit will be issued.