Tennessee launches education savings account program in Davidson, Shelby counties

(The Center Square) – Tennessee has launched its Educational Savings Account program, which applies to students in both Memphis and Nashville schools.

The ESA program began with legislation passed in 2019, but was blocked by an injunction soon after that was overruled by the Tennessee Supreme Court in May.

In June, the court then denied an appeal from Metro Nashville Public Schools to re-consider its ruling.

While announcing its appeal, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said that voucher programs have not provided better education to students in other states and he said that the legislation to create the ESA program only passed after several legislators were promised that the voucher program would never reach their county.

“The school voucher plan isn’t just flawed from a legal perspective,” Cooper said. “It’s also bad policy.”

The ESA/voucher program is aimed at allowing low-income students in low-performing schools in Davidson and Shelby counties to use vouchers to attend a school of their choice. Those students were set to receive approximately $7,000 to choose their school even though, at that point, schools in Shelby County spent $13,000 per student each year and Nashville schools spent $16,000 per student.

“There was an urgent need for school choice in 2019, and finally, parents in Memphis and Nashville won’t have to wait another day to choose the best educational fit for their children,” said Lee. “I thank each school that has partnered with us to swiftly implement a program that will change the lives of Tennessee students, and I invite interested families to begin the enrollment process today.”

The launch of the ESA program includes an application for eligible students to join the program and an open letter from more than 40 independent schools that are accepting new students through the program.

“MNPS and Shelby County Schools have consistently failed to provide every child with the education they deserve,” Beacon Center President and CEO Justin Owen has said about the program. “They’ve had their chance, now it’s time to put parents in the driver’s seat. We are glad to be moving ahead with the ESA program and we look forward to giving these children the lifeline they so desperately need.”