Nearly 1,000 Families Applied, 350 Accepted into Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Plan | Tennessee

(The Center Square) – Tennessee has seen nearly 1,000 families apply and more than 350 have been accepted into the state education savings account pilot program.

The program grew out of 2019 legislation that was later blocked by an injunction in 2019 before being canceled by the Tennessee Supreme Court in May.

The program was then spear end of July.

“There are a lot of kids in our state, a lot of them haven’t had a choice of which school they can go to,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said. “I am one of those who believe that when parents have a choice or when children have a choice in their educational path, they are much more likely to succeed here in the great state of Tennessee.

“That’s what the education savings account is for.

The ESA program is intended to allow low-income students from underperforming schools in Davidson and Shelby counties to use vouchers to attend a school of their choice. These students were to receive approximately $7,000 to choose their school even though, at that time, Shelby County schools were spending $13,000 per student each year and Nashville schools were spending $16,000 per student.

“It means these families now have a chance, now have a choice to choose an educational path for their child,” Lee said. “We know these children and families are likely to have better outcomes

“It’s a good first step. We have a long way to go in this program, it’s only been open for a few weeks.”

Proponents of the program believe it will give more opportunities to families with students in public schools who they believe are failing.

“The MNPS and Shelby County schools have consistently failed to provide every child with the education they deserve,” Beacon Center President and CEO Justin Owen said of the program. “They’ve had their chance, now is the time to put parents in the driver’s seat. We are happy to move forward with the ESA program and look forward to giving these children the lifeline they desperately need.”

Nashville Mayor John Cooper, however, has worked with his office to appeal the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling and believes ESAs are bad policy that has failed in other states.

“The school voucher scheme is not only flawed from a legal standpoint,” Cooper said. “It’s also bad policy.”