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Catholic school prepares to accept school vouchers

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 19:16:36-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The state's new school voucher program could mean more students will go to private schools this fall. The controversial program gives each student more than $8,000 in taxpayer money to go to a participating private school.

Right now schools are filling out paperwork for the state. It’s a mad dash before school starts in August.

At St. Edward School, Principal Susan Blankenship is working with students who want to go to elementary school there but can't afford it. "We want anybody who wants a Catholic education to be able to afford it,” Blankenship said. “But the fact that they could now use an ESA to pay that tuition is really going to be a wonderful thing for their community."

Francis Kham said there's a growing Burmese population in Middle Tennessee — many of those families left Myanmar due to religious persecution. "The military is torturing and all of kind bad stuff," Kham said.

He said some of them were not able to afford Catholic school until the state launched its new ESA program. He's Catholic and his child will be in seventh grade.

ESA funds website
ESA funds website

The voucher program gives taxpayer dollars to low-income families in Nashville and Memphis to help pay for private school. More information here.

St. Edward School is expecting more than a dozen students to take part in the new program this fall so they're scrambling to get ready. "They’re already putting in applications here at St. Edwards since the ESA application is not open yet, so we’re going to try to go ahead and process these kids," Blankenship said.

Critics said the program takes money away from already underfunded public schools. It only targets Memphis and Nashville, which some say isn't fair. In the end, it will be up to the courts to decide.

For now, St. Edwards is moving ahead with plans to add the new students. "If everything happens in time, and our kids can come this year and use these ESAs, our biggest concern is — can they come on the first day of school or are they going to have to now wait for approval process and that application and everything,” Blankenship said. "We just know what’s good for kids. If the kids are going to go to school here then we want them to start here this school year."

They have a few more available spots if other families are interested in applying.

The voucher covers the majority of tuition, but most private high schools cost more than $8,000, so some students who enroll will need financial aid.