The Tennessee Department of Education wants a local court to allow them to continue with the implementation of the state’s school voucher program, which was set to start by fall, 2020 and was declared unconstitutional on Monday night.
During the ruling of the lawsuit — brought by Davidson and Shelby Counties — Nashville Chancellor Anne C. Martin said the law violated the state’s Home Rule Amendment because the law targeted two counties without their consent. She prohibited the state from implementing or enforcing the program.
But in the motion, filed by the state Attorney General Herbert Slatery on Tuesday at 10:21 p.m., the agency says it wants the court to allow them to continue with the program while they appeal the initial order.
“The trial court’s injunction preventing state officials from implementing and enforcing the ESA Program will result in irreparable injury,” the state said in a motion. “Participating students and parents who have begun the application process for participation in the ESA Program are now facing the prospect of returning to underperforming schools.”
The state is also claiming that private schools participating in the program who have hired teachers “may find it necessary to terminate those teachers.”
Chancellor Martin will hear arguments on the motion at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
Bob Cooper, Metro director of law, told WPLN news on Wednesday the county opposes “any effort by the state to implement the ESA Act in violation of the Tennessee Constitution.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, 1,748 applications have been received by the Tennessee Department of Education. A spokesman with the agency said that represents 2,526 students.
On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Lee was still encouraging parents to apply for the program. But on Wednesday afternoon, Lee’s office backtracked the comments.
“While we disagree with the court’s ruling, we respect it and believe we are in full compliance,” Gillum Ferguson, Lee’s spokesman, said in a statement. “In the meantime, the Department of Education has not and will not be taking any action to process, administer, review applications, or further implement the program until this matter is resolved in the courts.”
According to news reports, some groups have said that Lee violated the ruling by telling parents to apply.
Read the motion here.
This story was updated at 5:17 p.m. with the statement from Lee’s office.