(The Center Square) – Hamilton County students might soon have access to educational savings accounts like students in Davidson and Shelby counties.
Senate Bill 12 advanced through the Senate Education Committee with a 6-2 nod of approval as it now heads to the Senate Calendar Committee.
Because the pilot program has a cap on the number of participants, the bill will not cost the state additional money.
The program can admit 5,000 students in the first year, then 7,500 in the second year, 10,000 in the third year, 12,500 in the fourth year and then 15,000 students in the fifth year.
The ESAs were expected to be worth $7,572 in the first year and advance to a value of $8,684 per ESA.
“Because the enrollment limit is expected to be met every year under current law, expanding the number of eligible students will not affect the total number of participants in the Tennessee ESA Pilot Program,” the fiscal note on the bill stated.
Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Sen. Ramesh Akbari, D-Memphis, voted against the bill, which would make the 44,500 students in Hamilton County eligible for ESAs next year.
Families must have an annual household income that does not exceed twice the federal income eligibility guidelines for free lunch to be eligible. They also must attend a school identified as a priority school in 2015 and 2018 and must have been among the bottom 10 percent of schools as identified by the Department of Education in 2017.
“I was opposed to it being piloted in Shelby County and in Davidson County as well,” Akbari said, explaining her vote.