NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — This week, Tennessee’s highest court ruled in favor of Governor Bill Lee’s Education Savings Account program—also known as the school voucher plan.
“It’s an encouraging moment from my perspective,” Lee said.
The plan would essentially allow parents in Davidson and Shelby Counties to use state tax dollars to put toward private education. The two areas have the lowest-performing schools in the state.
“We think that every kid in our state ought to have access to a high-quality education,” Lee said.
Up to 15,000 students from low-performing school districts would be eligible for $7,300 yearly under the program. But only certain students are eligible.
Opponents, like Senate Democratic Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, previously argued that the program is taking dollars away from remaining public school kids.
But Lee disagrees—saying the recent passage of TISA, a historical $1 billion investment into the public education system, allows the state to do both.
“We can fully support public schools and we can give parents options at the same time. It’s possible to do both and that’s what we want to do,” Lee said.
The ruling overturns lower court decisions that previously determined the program violated the Tennessee Constitution’s “home rule,” which states the legislature can’t pass measures singling out individual counties without local support.
The governor said there are still many legal steps that must take place before the voucher program is implemented, but says a fall 2022 launch is ideal.
“Anytime we can give children access to that option of high-quality education, then it can’t come too soon,” Lee said.