Plaintiffs in Tennessee Voucher Lawsuit File Amicus Brief in Companion Case
The plaintiffs in McEwen v. Lee, a case challenging Tennessee’s unconstitutional Education Savings Account voucher law passed in 2019, have filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in an appeal of a companion challenge to the law.
In Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County v. Tennessee Department of Education, Shelby and Davidson Counties – the two counties targeted by the voucher law – obtained an injunction blocking the voucher program while the case is on appeal. Because the law applies only to students in those counties, the Davidson County Chancery Court ruled that it violates the state constitution’s Home Rule provision, which prohibits the state legislature from passing laws targeting specific counties without local approval. The case is now before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, with oral argument scheduled for August 5.
The McEwen lawsuit, brought by public school parents and community members in Nashville and Memphis, is on hold pending the appeal in Metro Government. The McEwen plaintiffs have filed an amicus brief in support of the Metro Government plaintiffs to emphasize several key points.
First, the McEwen plaintiffs’ brief affirms that the plaintiffs in both cases have standing to challenge the voucher statute, meaning they are legally entitled to file their lawsuits. Second, the brief explains that the State of Tennessee has a constitutional duty to fund public schools but has no such duty to fund private schools. The brief also explains that because the voucher program would be funded with taxpayer dollars intended for Metro Nashville Public Schools and Shelby County Schools, it would severely harm those counties’ ability to maintain adequately funded public schools.
Finally, the McEwen plaintiffs’ amicus brief responds to several amicus briefs filed by voucher proponents in support of the State of Tennessee’s position. These briefs assert that voucher programs benefit students and public schools. In response, the McEwen plaintiffs demonstrate how the history of private school vouchers is steeped in efforts to preserve racial segregation, and voucher programs continue to exacerbate school segregation. Research also shows that vouchers fail to improve students’ academic outcomes and drain money from already underfunded public schools, harming students and communities.
The McEwen plaintiffs are represented by Education Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which collaborate on the Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) campaign to ensure public education funds are used exclusively to maintain, support and strengthen public schools. The plaintiffs are also represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and represented pro bono by the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP.