Metro leaders say Tennessee’s controversial school voucher law violates the state’s constitution, and will take $16 million away from Nashville public schools in the first year.
The city filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the voucher law. Metro leaders say Nashville’s public schools are already cash strapped.
Freda Player-Peters, a Nashville school board member, says $16 million is how much the district spends to update textbooks.
“That affects what resources we can spread out between each school to make sure they have the latest or the most updated information and resources they need to do their job, and to be current in the current education curriculum,” says Player-Peters.
The lawsuit says school vouchers violate the state’s home rule and equal protection provisions, by singling out Shelby County and Davidson County public schools.
But Jack Johnson, the state senate’s majority leader, says it will help Metro kids.
“You know the ESA bill that we passed last year will result in additional funding for both Metro Nashville schools as well as Shelby County schools,” says Johnson. “It’s puzzling that they would sue when we’re giving them more money to educate their kids.”
Johnson also says this will expand education opportunities for students living in areas with struggling schools.
The ESAs would award qualifying students taxpayer money to cover private education costs.
Participating students will get up to $7,300 to use for tuition and fees at select schools. While not guaranteed, the state would then reimburse school districts to offset their per-student funding loss. One concern is that the state would only reimburse schools for three years.
The office of Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.