City leaders explain TN Education Savings Account qualifications to parents

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com)- Next fall, parents in one of the state’s largest school districts will have the option to get funding for their children’s education.


A longtime education advocate and state senator spoke to parents about the highly controversial education savings account program today.

“We don’t just want her going to any kind of school we want her going to a school that is going to help her prosper in life,” said Tamika Jones.

Jones is searching for the right school she can afford for her niece.

She came to Saturday morning’s meeting to see if her family qualifies for an education savings account scholarship.

“I am very, very you know determined that we face our education crisis like what it is and that’s a crisis,” said Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr., who is a former Memphis City Schools board member. “I think there’s a lost of misinformation when it comes to the ESAs.”

The heavily debated bill for the program was introduced by Governor Bill Lee.

Qualified families can receive more than $7,000 per student for educational needs including tuition.

In order qualify students must be enrolled in a Tennessee public school for the prior school year, be entering kindergarten or entering any grade having just moved to Tennessee.

A two-person household can’t earn over $43,966 dollars, a three-person household can’t be making more than $55, 458.

“If you love your school then stay there that’s wonderful,” said Senator Brian Kelsey. “But for others who want to make a change for some of their children this is going to be a wonderful 7000 thousand dollar opportunity to go to a different place that could be a better fit.”

Yet Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson isn’t sold on the plan saying ESAs will devastate Shelby County public schools which is financing the program.

“If private schools actually wanted these children they would lower their rates to get in order to get those children into those schools,” said Parkinson. “Without taking money from the public sector.”

Senator Brian Kelsey says ESA funding is the amount which government is already spending on children so there is no new cost and that it will likely be in the form of an EBT card to be used at schools and approved tutors.

Any unused funds actually rolls over into a student’s college fund.

“Public school, private school,” said Jones. “I think we all need to work together to build our children up. Private schools are very good. The private school sector is helping.”

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