More educational choices for Tennessee kids

Thank you for the great conversations you have shared with our TennesseeCAN Action Fund field teams about Governor Bill Lee’s plans to offer more educational options to Tennessee students through Education Freedom Scholarships. Tennessee has many fine schools, from traditional public to charter to private, but even a great school isn’t necessarily the right fit for every single student. More and more parents and educators are learning the value of meeting individual students’ needs. And thanks to dynamic education leaders, modern technology and more engaged parents following the pandemic our ability to do so is greater than ever before.

How We Got Here

Tennessee has been a leading state in innovating to better serve students for more than a decade. In the 2010s, Tennessee saw nation-leading growth in academic achievement. During the pandemic, Governor Lee, with the support of the General Assembly, led the way among the nation’s governors and passed critical reforms to give students access to tutoring and summer learning. Then, in 2022, Governor Lee and the General Assembly addressed an outdated school funding formula and fixed it so that each student was allocated money that was needed for their individual needs, simultaneously increasing public school education funding by $750 million.

Now, Governor Lee is taking the next step by working to give parents the freedom they need to select the education that is best for their children. While some low-income families in Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga have access to Education Freedom Scholarships, Governor Lee believes it should be available to all. Read his State of the State speech (school choice about halfway through) and watch this video of a mother he featured in his remarks. Most students will remain in their assigned schools and it is fantastic that their current option is serving them well, but now the students who aren’t experiencing that will also have the opportunity to find a place to thrive.

How We Got Here

This is not just happening in Tennessee. Republican governors around the country are leading on this, including Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, Jim Justice of West Virginia, Eric Holcomb of Indiana, former Former Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona and others.

Learn More

Check out this video to understand the basics about Education Freedom Scholarships, often referred to in other states as Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).

You can also visit to learn more.

While we wait for the legislature and the Governor to work out the final details of Tennessee’s version of Education Freedom Scholarships, we will bring you continued information and FAQs.

This Week’s FAQs

Did you know… that a recent Beacon Center Poll showed 69% of all Tennessee voters support expanding the Education Savings Account program to all counties in the state.

Where can a parent obtain an ESA now in Tennessee? 

Tennessee’s Education Savings Account Pilot Program is a state-funded Education Savings Account program that is available to students from low- and middle-income households in Chattanooga, 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. Education Savings Account students who enroll in private schools may also use the Education Savings Account funds for various K–12 and higher education expenses in addition to private school tuition and fees

How does this affect school funding?

In Tennessee, education dollars are directly tied to students. Public schools will continue to retain all the funds for the students they are serving. Additionally, in 2022 Governor Bill Lee invested $750 million more dollars into Tennessee public schools. Some people advocate only for options. Some advocate only for more resources. Governor Lee believes in greater public school funding and more options for families, schools and students.