(The Center Square) – Tennessee’s Senate approved a bill Monday night that would expand eligibility for the state’s educational savings account program to any student who attended a public school in any of the three previous years.
Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said the bill is aimed at students who would have fit the requirements when ESA’s were originally passed in 2019 but decided to attend a private or charter school after that while the original ESA law was blocked in the court system.
“This provides a window for those students,” Lundberg said of Senate Bill 638.
The bill is in addition to a bill that would add Hamilton County students to those eligible for the ESA program. That bill, Senate Bill 12, was approved by the Senate on Feb. 16 and is being held on the House desk as it is scheduled to be considered by the House K-12 Subcommittee on Tuesday.
The bills do not change the number of students that can be admitted to the statewide program each year.
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.
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% of schools as identified by the Department of Education in 2017.