After passage, independent schools ponder the future of ESAs

Posted at 8:19 PM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-06 21:19:01-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Davidson counties dozens of independent schools now have to make a decision whether or not they'll decide to accept state money from the Education Savings Account program.

ESAs passed through the state legislature last week and the bill is expected to be signed soon by Governor Bill Lee.

It would offer $7,300 to students in the lowest performing school districts in the state for families that fall within the income specifications.

The program mainly applies to Davidson and Shelby counties. However, many Nashville independent schools have tuition well above the $7,300 supplied by the program.

For example, Ensworth School has a high school tuition of $31,980. While school officials have no indicated whether or not they would like to be a part of the program, doing so would likely mean low income families would have to find a way to make up the extra money.

Other schools, such as The Covenant School, have a more attainable cost. Kindergarten through sixth graders can attend the school for $13,500.

Dr. Katherine Koonce, head of the school, said it's likely the school would make an effort cover the rest of the cost.

"I think there's often a gap," said Dr. Koonce. "There's often a gap between what the parents can afford and what the school charges. That's not unusual, and that's why all schools, that I know of, have fairly robust financial aid programs. Where they commit a certain percent of their annual budget to financial aid. We do the same."

However, Dr. Koonce said she has questions. What type of testing will the state use to measure student achievement? Who would send in information about the student's achievements?

Questions she said would have to be answered before the school would consider entering the program.