A Tennessee court panel upheld the state’s decision school vouchers law, which makes it possible to give taxpayers’ money to families to pay for private education.
Critics of the vouchers argue the law will weaken the state’s public education system, but the three-judge panel said the counties and families who sued could not prove how students would be immediately harmed by the program . They concluded that any concerns raised now are “speculative and representative of (opponents’) disapproval of the policy”.
The plaintiffs are “simply asking the court to engage in political debate, which we cannot do,” the panel said on Wednesday.
The decision comes after a year-long legal battle over the controversial voucher scheme, known as college savings accounts. Under the law, eligible families receive approximately $8,100 in public tax dollars to help pay for private school tuition and other pre-approved expenses.
While the Republican-controlled Legislature approved the voucher program in 2019, the state was only recently allowed to begin implementing the law this summer after the Tennessee Supreme Court cleared a key legal hurdle. .
Opponents, which include Nashville, Shelby County and a handful of families, argued that schools and students would be hurt by the voucher program because school districts lose money for every student who participates in the voucher program. good.
But the three-judge panel said in its decision that opponents’ claims “lack maturity” because the Vouchers Act includes a provision that replaces funds misappropriated for at least three years with “a health improvement fund”. school”. Money from the improvement fund is subject to statutory appropriations.
“The loss of money has already been corrected by the ESA Act itself,” the judges wrote. “Such an injury, if it occurs, is entirely speculative as the legislator has taken into account the funding shortfall which is the source of the injury.”
The decision was hailed by supporters of the vouchers, including Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who was named in the lawsuit.
“Through our ESA program, TN families can finally choose the best school for their child,” Lee tweeted shortly after the decision was posted. “Hundreds of students have already signed up for this life-changing opportunity to receive the high-quality education they deserve.”