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.

‘Nowhere I’d rather be than at Whitehaven High’: Gov. Bill Lee addresses Memphis grads

Among the many Memphis-Shelby County Schools graduation speakers this weekend was Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

At Whitehaven High School’s graduation Saturday, the governor asked students to think of their lives like a book.

“And regardless of the chapters to date, the story that’s being written about you has great promise and hope,” Lee said. “The previous chapters were decided largely by someone else, but the next chapters in your life will be decided by you.”

Of the districts 5,500 graduates across 30 high schools, Whitehaven boasted one of the largest classes, at 400 students. In recent years, students at the high school, alma mater to Superintendent Joris Ray, have been known for being “million dollar scholars,” an accomplishment encouraged through a mentor partnership with the Peer Power Foundation.