NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tennessee to Become the 27th School Choice State

May 5, 2015

The Tennessee legislature passed Senate Bill 27/House Bill 138, the Individualized Education Act (IEA), an education savings account (ESA) program for children with disabilities.

The Tennessee Department of Education will disburse payments to the student's Individualized Education Account (IEA) on a quarterly basis. Each student's IEA will be funded at the level of per-pupil state and local funds from the basic education program (BEP) for the local education agency (LEA) the student is zoned to attend plus special education funds from the BEP to which the student would otherwise be entitled under the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Any funds remaining in a graduating high school student's IEA may be used to fund tuition, fees or textbooks for postsecondary education.

To qualify:

  • Students must have autism, deaf-blindness, hearing impairments, intellectual disability, orthopedic impairments, traumatic brain injury or visual impairments.
  • They must have been enrolled in a Tennessee public school during the two semesters immediately preceding the semester when the student receives an IEA.
  • Students must be enrolling in a Tennessee public school for the first time, have received an IEA in the previous school year. A student may remain eligible for an IEA until the student returns to public school, graduates from high school, or reaches the age of 22, whichever occurs first.

Regulations of providers.

  • Participating schools must comply with health and safety laws that apply to nonpublic schools.
  • School officials must certify they will not discriminate against students or applicant based on race, color or national origin.
  • The legislation requires participating schools to exclude from employment anyone not permitted by state law to work in a nonpublic school or who might pose a threat to the safety of students.

More states could join Tennessee in affirming that the department of education shall not regulate the educational program of a nonpublic school or service provider under the program.

Source: Leslie Hiner, "Explaining Tennessee's ESA Bill," Friedman Foundation, April 22, 2105. 


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