McEwen v. Lee Background
In May 2019, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted a new voucher law, the Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program. The law applies to students in two counties: Davidson County, which includes Nashville, and Shelby County, which includes Memphis. The Voucher Law provides that for each eligible student, the per-pupil amount of public school funds intended for Metro Nashville Public Schools and Shelby County Schools will be diverted to private schools.
On March 2, 2020, public school parents and community members from Davidson and Shelby Counties filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court, challenging the voucher law. In the lawsuit, McEwen v. Lee, the plaintiffs charge that the law violates several provisions of the Tennessee Constitution — including the Home Rule provision, which prohibits laws that target certain counties without requiring their approval, the Education and Equal Protection provisions, and the Appropriation of Public Moneys provision — as well as several state statutes.
The plaintiffs are represented by Education Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which collaborate on the Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) campaign. PFPS opposes all forms of private school vouchers and works to ensure that public funds are used exclusively to maintain, support and strengthen our nation’s public schools. The plaintiffs are also represented by the ACLU of Tennessee and pro bono by the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP.