American Federation for Children – Growth Fund files amicus brief in lawsuit

Read the Full Brief HERE

December 1, 2020

American Federation for Children – Growth Fund files amicus brief in lawsuit over Education Savings Account program

NASHVILLE – The American Federation for Children Growth Fund has filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit over Tennessee’s Education Savings Account (ESA) program, asking for the Tennessee Supreme Court to take up the case, and overturn the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference – Memphis Chapter and Latinos for Tennessee have also signed onto the brief.

“We are looking forward to filing this with the court, and are confident the program will withstand this challenge,” said Shaka Mitchell, Tennessee State Director for American Federation for Children.

“It’s clear that the pandemic has exacerbated an existing problem: schools in the lowest-income areas are falling further behind, deepening the socioeconomic divide. Schools in some of Tennessee’s lowest income areas are in the bottom third of the states in rankings,” continued Mitchell. “Among economically disadvantaged students, only 15.5 percent in Metro Nashville and 17.3 percent in Shelby County scored on track or better on annual state tests. That is absolutely unacceptable, and that is why the pilot program targeted those two school districts.”

The brief includes these statistics, in addition to pointing out that even among all public-school students, only 26.4% in Metro Nashville and 22.7% in Shelby County scored on track or better on annual state tests.

Additionally, the brief highlights the importance of empowering students and families to choose the best school for them, and emphasizes that the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic show the need for choice programs.

From the brief:

Equally troubling, these numbers will almost certainly get worse this year, as COVID-19 disproportionately affects lower-income students in more populous urban areas. Lower-income parents are less likely to be able to work from home and to supervise children in remote classes. Relatedly, lower-income families often lack computers or reliable internet access at home necessary for effective virtual learning. Though the Tennessee DOE has limited data available for the 2019–20 school year, The Dallas Morning News recently described “horrifying” learning setbacks for students in the Dallas Independent School District, a large urban school district comparable to Shelby County Schools or Metro Nashville Public Schools.

The American Federation for Children – Tennessee is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for parent choice in education. We believe kids and communities thrive when parents can meaningfully choose the best educational environment for their children, so all children, particularly low-income children, have access to a better education—whether that’s at a traditional public school, independent school, public charter school, home school or any other learning environment parents choose.

The American Federation for Children-Tennessee is a project of the American Federation for Children (AFC). For over 25 years, AFC has revolutionized the K-12 system in an effort to take it to a 21st century model where all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, have access to a quality education.