Over 40 TN schools pledge support for ESA program

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Wednesday, Governor Bill Lee visited Saint Benedict at Auburndale, a private school in Cordova, to continue the rollout of the state’s Education Savings Account program, also known as school vouchers.

He said with the applications just opening in the last week, they’ve gotten more than 600 applicants so far and more than 40 schools committed to giving families another schooling option.

“So if a parent now has a choice, another option for the education for their child that they believe is a better option. Then it certainly stands to reason that it will benefit that child,” he said.

But, one of the biggest questions presented is how will steep tuition prices for some of these schools affect the families who can even get through the doors?

The program would give up $7,300 per student.

Saint Benedict at Auburndale’s website says the school’s tuition starts at more than $13,000.

“Individual schools have individual strategies and many of them, these independent schools have scholarship programs, and they’re already enrolling children with financial need in their institutions,” said Lee.

Not everyone is on board with this law, including Memphis Representative Jesse Chism.

“Any time you take away public dollars to use for private enterprise, I have to be against that.”

Chism, a Democrat from Memphis, said he feels the timeline to get this in place by the start of the school year was rushed.

He also believes Lee’s idea of having more choices is misleading because the schools ultimately make that decision.

“They would take the best students from our school district and put them in private school, and the students who are struggling, those are the ones leftover. When you look at what those test scores may become, it could be harmful to our public school system.”

Lee said there’s no breakdown so far of exactly how many of those applicants are from MSCS.

Back in May, the school system released a statement calling this program an “alarming assault on public education.”

The private schools in Shelby County that are participating in the school voucher program are as follows:

  • St. Agnes Academy
  • St. Dominic School
  • Brinkley Heights Urban Academy
  • Central Baptist School
  • Christ Methodist Day School
  • Christ the King Lutheran School
  • The Collegiate School of Memphis
  • Concord Academy
  • Creative Life Preparatory
  • Greater Praise Christian Academy
  • Harding Academy of Memphis
  • Holy Rosary Catholic School
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral School
  • Immanuel Lutheran School
  • New Hope Christian Academy
  • Presbyterian Day School
  • Sensational Enlightenment Academy
  • St. Ann Bartlett Catholic School
  • St. Benedict at Auburndale School
  • St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School
  • St. George’s Independent School
  • St. Louis Catholic School
  • St. Paul Catholic School
  • Woodland Presbyterian School
  • Word of Faith Christian Academy
  • St. John Vianney Catholic School – Sumner