NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — With education savings accounts available in Tennessee, families in Nashville can now apply as soon as the August school year.
Only 5,000 vouchers will become available for the upcoming school year for students in Nashville and Memphis.
Families who applythrough the state website will submit to an enrollment lottery, and will additionally have to apply their student to a private school if granted the $7,000. Per the state website, voucher funds are designed for students in poverty. Students must have been in a public school the year prior or become eligible for the first time to enroll.
As far as finances, state officials on its website said student families can't exceed twice the federal income eligibility guidelines for free lunch. The Tennessee Department of Education will let families know via email the application status. The process takes around 21 business days.
Each year, students will have to reapply to the program.
HOW CAN FAMILIES USE VOUCHER FUNDS
- Tuition or fees at a participating school
- Required school uniforms at a participating school
- Required textbooks at a participating school
- Tuition and fees for approved summer education programs and specialized after-school education programs
- Tutoring services provided by an individual who meets department requirements.
- Tuition and fees at an eligible postsecondary institution
- Transportation to and from a participating school or education provider by taxi or bus service
- Textbooks required by an eligible postsecondary institution
- Fees for early postsecondary opportunity courses, exams, or exams related to college admission
- Educational therapies or services for participating students provided by a department-approved therapist
- Computer hardware, technological devices, or other department-approved technology fees. (This is applicable only if the technology is used for educational needs, is purchased at or below fair market value, and is purchased through a participating school, private school, or provider.)
HOW ESAs CAME TO BE
Enacted in 2019 by the legislature would establish a program for students to receive money directly for their education rather than a public school system to pay for private education. The Tennessee Department of Education officials said they were "excited to restart work" for families and students. During the injunction, the department couldn't work on preparation plans for the ESAs. It's not clear when the program will begin.
During a five-year period, up to 15,000 students could become eligible for these benefits
Lower courts, including the Davidson County Chancery Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals, previously ruled they weren't constitutional. That decision was appealed in 2021.
The Tennessee Supreme Court's decision was met with rebuke from Nashville leaders, including MNPS Superintendent Adrienne Battle and Mayor John Cooper. District leaders were already concerned about the transition from the Basic Education Program to the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act, which will calculate how much school districts get per student.