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Tennessee – Individualized Education Account Program

Tennessee enacted the nation’s fourth education savings account (ESA) program in 2015. The program, which launched in 2016, gives parents of students with special needs access to an Individualized Education Account (IEA). An IEA can be used for a variety of educational expenses, including private school tuition, private tutoring, learning therapies and more. Learn more about this program’s funding, eligibility and regulations in this section.

Program Fast Facts

  • America’s fourth education savings accounts (ESA) program

  • 87 participating students (2017–18)

  • 2 percent of students eligible statewide

  • 14 participating schools (2017–18)

  • Average account value: $6,721 (2017–18)

  • Average base account value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 77 percent

Program Details

Tennessee’s Individualized Education Account Program Participation

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Click the + symbols to learn more about this program’s details.

Tennessee’s Individualized Education Account (IEA) Program provides parents funds to pay for a variety of educational services for their children, including private school tuition, tutoring, online education, curriculum, therapy, post-secondary educational institutions in Tennessee and other defined educational services. The program launched in 2016–17.

Student Funding

An IEA is funded at an amount equivalent to 100 percent of the state and local funds reflected in the state funding formula that would have gone to the student had he or she attended a zoned public school, plus special education funds to which the student would otherwise be entitled under the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Student Eligibility

Students qualify if they are eligible to enroll in kindergarten through 12th grade. They must have an IEP and have been diagnosed with one of the following: autism, deaf-blindness, a hearing impairment (including deafness), an intellectual disability, an orthopedic impairment, a traumatic brain injury, developmental delay, visual impairment (including blindness) and/or multiple disabilities. Additionally, students must either (1) have been enrolled in a Tennessee public school during the previous full school year, (2) be attending a Tennessee public school for the first time or (3) have received an IEA in the previous school year.

EdChoice Expert Feedback

Tennessee’s education savings account—the fourth program of its type in the nation—is currently limited to children with specified disabilities. Although this is a good step for Tennessee students, the program has room to improve. Tennessee should continue to expand eligibility in the program to include a larger pool of eligible students. The program’s regulations on education providers are reasonable and relatively unobtrusive. The program administration is currently under the Department of Education, but the legislature should shift it to a different governmental department, such as the Department of Revenue, or to a nonprofit designated to administer the funds.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: None
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: Conditional
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Account Cap: 100 percent of state and local funds reflected in the state funding formula and categorical grants for students with special needs
  • Testing Mandates: State or National
  • *Limited to students diagnosed with autism, deaf-blindness, a hearing impairment or deafness, an intellectually disability, an orthopedic impairment, a traumatic brain injury, or a visual impairment or blindness

Parent Requirements:

  • Must sign an agreement to:
    • Educate the student in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science
    • Not enroll the student in a public school
    • Release the LEA in which the student resides and is zoned to attend from all obligations to educate the student
  • Use program funds only for authorized purposes, including:
    • Tuition or fees at a participating school
    • Textbooks required by a participating school
    • Tutoring services provided by a tutor accredited by a state, regional or national accrediting organization
    • Payment for purchase of curriculum, including any supplemental materials required by the curriculum
    • Fees for transportation paid to a fee-for-service transportation provider
    • Tuition or fees for a nonpublic online learning program or course
    • Fees for nationally standardized norm-referenced achievement tests, AP examinations or any examinations related to college or university admission
    • Contributions to a Coverdell Education Savings Account for the benefit of the participating student
    • Educational therapies or services for participating students from a licensed or accredited practitioner or provider, including licensed or accredited paraprofessionals or educational aides
    • Services provided under a contract with a public school, including individual classes and extracurricular programs
    • Tuition or fees at an eligible postsecondary institution
    • Textbooks required for courses at an eligible postsecondary institution
    • Fees for the management of the IEA by private financial firms
  • Ensure that students in grades 3–8 are annually administered either a nationally norm-referenced test identified by the Tennessee department of education or the Tennessee state tests (TCAP) or any future replacements of the TCAP tests

Governing Statutes

Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-10-1401 through 1406

Legal History

No legal challenges have been filed against the program.

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