Statement of Raymond Pierce, President and CEO, Southern Education Foundation on the Tennessee Supreme Court Ruling on the Constitutionality of the Education Savings Account Pilot Program 

MEDIA CONTACT: Gretchen Wright, 202-421-5830,

May 19, 2022 (Atlanta, Georgia)— The Southern Education Foundation released the following statement from its President and CEO regarding the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Education Savings Account program:

We are deeply disappointed in the Tennessee Supreme Court’s ruling that the state’s Education Savings Account Pilot Program (ESA Act) does not violate the state’s constitution. It is notable that this program applies only to two school districts in the state, both of which have student populations in which a majority of the students are people of color.

We continue to maintain the argument of our amicus brief, that this voucher program structures choices to promote de facto segregation and is therefore in conflict with the Tennessee Constitution’s promise to provide for a high-quality public education for every student in the state.

There is a long and well-documented history of school voucher programs in the South being used to avoid integration by siphoning public funds out of public schools. This decision harkens back to the shameful efforts following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling to dismantle hard-fought and socially-beneficial historical progress in ensuring equity of opportunity and education regardless of race. We also know there is no comprehensive set of research that shows any clear academic benefits for students attending private schools with vouchers.

While this law stands for now, the Southern Education Foundation will continue to fight school privatization efforts that would take our nation back to the days of a segregated and inherently unequal education system.

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Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for students of color and students from low-income families and achieve educational equity in the southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at