How Tennessee school vouchers could impact Shelby County students and parents

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — This week, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in favor of Governor Bill Lee’s school voucher program that was passed three years ago.

Now, parents are sounding off on the ruling in the state’s largest school district, Memphis Shelby County Schools.

“I wasn’t surprised because it was in the works. It’s been in the works for a while,” said former parent Narika Davis.

RELATED: Court clears path for long-blocked Tennessee school vouchers

Davis said her daughter was enrolled in a Memphis-Shelby County Schools District school until this past year.

She said she opted to homeschool because of the pandemic, but also because her local school was not up to her standards.

But, she does not support this voucher program and how detrimental it could be for MSCS students.

“When they take these vouchers, it’s gonna take money from the system. It’s gonna be hard to have retention, trying to keep people because money talks. People are gonna go where the money is,” she said.

Since 2019, Governor Lee has tried to put school vouchers into place for low-income families across Tennessee.

In a statement Thursday, MSCS had this to say in a statement:

“The Tennessee Supreme Court ruling is an alarming ASSAULT on public education. It’s an ASSAULT on the authority of local taxpayers and governing bodies whose resources are allocated to historically underfunded public institutions. It’s an ASSAULT on our community.

The voucher program will divert funds away from only two of the 147 school districts in Tennessee, both responsible for educating students with the greatest needs.

The recent ruling is an unfortunate roadblock on the path toward progress and makes serving students in the state’s largest urban district even more challenging.

As champions for equity, Memphis-Shelby County Schools will persist in our mission to serve children and provide our students with high-quality options for their education regardless of socio-economic status.”

It’s a strong reaction and one that MSCS parent Tiffani Perry said she understands.

“Trying to be the voice of reason as a parent in all of this, it is time for us to have some crucial and critical conversation as to why this is needed,” Perry said.

She said she does not like that it takes away funding, but she likes the idea of parents having the choice, if eligible.

“I absolutely do not agree with any initiatives that take away from public school funding because we have so many kids that still have no choice but to attend the public school,” she said.

If eligible, a student can get about $7,000 to go to any private school their parents decide on,

This decision comes as Memphis-Shelby County Schools’ enrollment numbers are dropping and its budget is being discussed by the county commission.