Tennessee’s Education Savings Account Pilot Program, enacted in 2019 and launching during the 2021–22 school year, is the state’s first voucher and second private school choice program. The state-funded voucher is available to students from low- and middle-income households in Memphis and Nashville who are switching out of a public district or charter school or are eligible for the first time to enroll in a Tennessee school. Voucher students who enroll in private schools may also use the voucher funds for various K–12 and higher education expenses in addition to private school tuition and fees. Learn more about the program’s details, including eligibility, funding and regulations, on this page.
Tennessee’s first school voucher program
Tennessee’s second private school choice program
60 percent of families in Nashville and Shelby County (Memphis) income eligible
Maximum voucher value: $7,100
Maximum value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 83 percent
Tennessee will provide vouchers to fund tuition and supplemental educational services for low- to middle-income families in Memphis and Nashville whose children choose to attend private schools beginning in 2020.
The voucher amount is equal to the state and local Basic Education Program (BEP) per-pupil amount of a student’s home district or the statewide average BEP (about $7,300 in 2018–19), whichever amount is less. Families may pay for tuition and educational services in excess of the maximum voucher amount.
Funds are deposited into families’ Education Savings Accounts at least four times per school year to help parents pay for private school tuition and fees. Funds may also be used for textbooks, state-approved tutoring and therapy services, transportation to educational institutions or services, computer hardware and software, school uniforms, summer education programs, and higher education expenses.
Students must be eligible to enroll in either the Shelby County (Memphis) or Metro Nashville school districts. In addition, students must have attended a Tennessee public school during the prior school year or be newly eligible to attend a Tennessee public school and come from households earning less than 200 percent of the federal free lunch program ($66,950 for a family of four in 2019–20).
Participating students must be enrolled in a state-approved private school in order to continue receiving Education Savings Account funds. If students move into a different school district while receiving a voucher, they are no longer eligible for the Education Savings Account. Absent this stipulation and annual income verification, returning students are guaranteed vouchers.
For the first year, there is a 5,000-student enrollment cap. If there are more applications than 75 percent of that figure, the cap is allowed to grow by 2,500 students a year until reaching 15,000 students. If there are more applications than vouches available, the state will conduct a lottery that prioritizes (1) siblings of Education Savings Account recipients, (2) students zoned to a priority school as designated by the Tennessee Department of Education, and (3) students directly certified to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.