Governor Lee is partnering with the Legislature and Leadership to lead this effort upon hearing from lawmakers, teachers, superintendents, school board members, and stakeholders.  The House (by bringing amendment 8453) is leading the way to protect LEA’s while also ensuring that our poorest children in those deep blue metropolitan areas have a fighting chance at a quality education.


  • This pilot ESA program is a conservative solution to correct years of liberal mismanagement resulting in an education system that fails children among urban metropolitan populations.
  • Urban school districts have been historically recognized in the bottom 10 percent of all schools across both the state and country, locking many of our kids into a cycle of failure.
  • A limited portion of BEP funds will shift ONLY in these eligible counties for the benefit of our poorest kids because whether they attend an eligible private institution, public institution, or get assistance for after school programs, their parents and our citizens pay taxes to entrust the government to educate all of our children.
  • For the first three years in which the program enrolls students, the participating LEA will receive grants to account for their proportionate BEP decrease associated with ESA utilization (75 percent in year one, 50 percent in year two, 25 percent in year three).[1] The step decrease incentivizes improvements in low performing schools.


  • The ESA program is strictly limited to just Davidson, Knox, Shelby, and Hamilton Counties.[2]
  • The ESA benefit ceases when an eligible recipient moves outside of the eligible district.[3]
  • The ESA benefit ceases when a student is removed from school for bad conduct/other behavior.[4]
  • Hardened caps on the number of eligible recipients increase annually until year five when the overall cap is sustained at no more than 15,000 indefinitely.[5]
  • Unnecessary lawsuits are costly – this bill preempts bolstering attorney profits by barring lawsuits on the ESA issue for each eligible LEA.


  • ESA expenditures are limited to pre-approved purchases that are narrowly defined.[6]
  • The Tennessee Department of Education is authorized to recoup misused assets, implement fraud mitigation efforts, and to refer bad actors for criminal prosecution.[7]
  • Parents of applicants or applicants themselves where applicable must comport with E-verify requirements.[8]
  • The program is subject to annual reporting requirements and comptroller auditing.[9]

[1] TCA 49-6-2605(a)(2)(A), amendment drafting code 8453

[2] TCA 49-6-2602(3)(C), amendment drafting code 8453

[3] TCA 49-6-2603(a)(5)(d), amendment drafting code 8453

[4] Id., amendment drafting code 8453

[5] TCA 49-6-2604, amendment drafting code 8453

[6] TCA 49-6-2607, amendment drafting code 8453

[7] Id., amendment drafting code 8453

[8] TCA 49-6-2603(a)(5), amendment drafting code 8453

[9] TCA 49-6-2606(c)(d), amendment drafting code 8453