Nashville and Shelby County governments have pulled out of their greater than 3-year-old authorized dispute with the state over a 2019 personal college voucher regulation.
The paperwork to withdraw their newest enchantment was filed quietly on Aug. 25 with the Tennessee Courtroom of Appeals, based on courtroom paperwork.
The pullout by Tennessee’s two largest counties is the newest setback for efforts to overturn the controversial schooling financial savings account regulation, the signature laws of Gov. Invoice Lee’s first yr in workplace.
The regulation, which permits the state to provide taxpayer cash to eligible households to pay towards the price of personal college tuition, was declared unconstitutional by a Nashville choose in 2020 as a result of, on the time, it affected college students solely in Nashville and Memphis, the place native officers have constantly opposed vouchers. However after a number of appeals, the Tennessee Supreme Courtroom dominated in favor of the state in 2022 and resurrected the regulation, permitting this system to launch final yr within the two counties. This fall, the state rolled out this system in Hamilton County after lawmakers voted earlier this yr for enlargement.
On Friday, Nashville Legislation Director Wally Dietz declined to remark in regards to the determination to drag out of the swimsuit, as did E. Lee Whitwell, chief litigation lawyer for Shelby County authorities.
However Dietz, whose workplace has been main the cost on the Nashville-Shelby lawsuit, famous that the authorized problem stays alive via a second lawsuit filed in 2020 by the Training Legislation Middle and the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle on behalf of 11 public college mother and father and neighborhood members in Memphis and Nashville. Their enchantment is pending earlier than the state’s appellate courtroom.
The state Supreme Courtroom’s ruling in Could 2022 rejected Metro Nashville and Shelby County’s argument that the voucher regulation violated a “residence rule” provision within the Tennessee Structure. The most recent courtroom battle has been over whether or not plaintiffs in each lawsuits have authorized standing to pursue the case primarily based on different authorized claims, similar to a constitutional clause that requires the state to take care of a system of “free public faculties,” with no point out of personal faculties.
In a cut up vote in late 2022, a three-judge panel of Davidson County Chancery Courtroom dismissed these claims. Quickly after, attorneys behind each lawsuits appealed that ruling to the Tennessee Courtroom of Appeals.
Chris Wooden, a Nashville lawyer serving to to litigate the remaining lawsuit, stated the pullout by Metro Nashville and Shelby County has no bearing on his case filed collectively with the Training Legislation Middle, the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle, and the ACLU.
“We’re nonetheless right here,” Wooden stated Friday. “Our case has at all times been our case. And whereas it’s good to have folks working with you, this actually doesn’t have an effect on what we’re doing.”
A spokesperson for the Tennessee lawyer basic’s workplace didn’t instantly reply when requested Friday in regards to the improvement.
Presently, Tennessee’s schooling financial savings account program has fewer than 2,000 college students enrolled in 75 state-approved personal faculties within the three counties the place it operates, considerably beneath this yr’s 5,000-seat cap.
Rep. Mark White, a Memphis Republican who chairs a Home Training Committee, has stated he expects to file laws subsequent yr to take this system statewide.
Marta Aldrich is a senior correspondent and covers the statehouse for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Contact her at email@example.com.