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General Assembly to Consider Statewide School Choice in 2024

This information is provided by the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis, Marshall, Maury and Williamson counties in the State Legislature.

Gov. Bill Lee has announced the Education Freedom Scholarship Act of 2024, his administration’s legislative proposal to establish statewide universal school choice.

The legislation aims to provide every Tennessee parent with the opportunity to choose the right education for their child, while prioritizing families with the greatest need.

"While details of the legislation, including its financial impact, will be carefully vetted in the upcoming legislative session, I do support the legislative goal to expand school choice throughout Tennessee," according to Hensley.

"School choice is about expanding access to a high-quality education and ultimately improving lives. Parents know best and should have the ability to decide what’s best for their child when it comes to education.

The goal of the proposed legislation is to do that and give families a choice where their taxpayer dollars are spent," according to Hensley.

Tennessee residents entitled to attend K-12 at a public school, including homeschoolers enrolled in umbrella or church-related schools, will be eligible for the program.

The bill is structured to prioritize eligibility for the most at-risk students before ramping up to universal eligibility.

Under the bill, 20,000 scholarships will be awarded in the 2024-2025 school year on a rolling first-come, first-served basis.

Of those, 10,000 scholarships will be available for Tennessee students at or below 300% of the federal poverty level, with a disability or are eligible for the existing ESA pilot program.

An additional 10,000 scholarships will be available to a universal pool of students entitled to attend a public school.

By the 2025-2026 school year and beyond, the bill proposes universal school choice eligibility for all students entitled to attend a public school.

If applications exceed available scholarships due to funding, lower income, public-school and returning scholarship students will receive priority.

The General Assembly has worked to expand school choice in recent years with the establishment of the Education Savings Account program in 2019 in Memphis-Shelby County Schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools and Hamilton County Schools and at schools in the Achievement School District (ASD).

That program allows the use of state and local money toward education expenses, including tuition and/or fees at approved private schools.

"I look forward to working with Gov. Lee and my colleagues in the General Assembly as we consider this very important legislation," according to Hensley.

"Educating our children to the best of our ability is the issue we should all be concerned with accomplishing.

"Many details concerning this legislation need to be clarified, and I will be analyzing the impact on our children and our public schools.

"I strongly support our public schools and will continue to work to make them better in the future as I have in the past," according to Hensley.

" I invite my constituents to reach out and share their thoughts on this legislation as it winds its way through the committee process. I am eager to hear the ideas and concerns of my constituents.

" Let’s continue to work together to improve education in Tennessee."

Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville.,TN 37243, or call 615-741-3100, or call toll free 1-800-449-8366, ext. 13100, or fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN., 38462, or call 931-796-2018, or call his cell phone at 931-212-8823 or e-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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