Opting Out of Franklin Public Schools for Private Education 

Franklin Public Schools
Franklin Public Schools

Parents are opting out of the Frankin, Tennessee, public school system in favor of alternative options, including private education. Non-public school options don’t have an LEA—local education agency or department—the Tennessee Department of Education running them. 

These systems primarily operate privately with tuition funding that’s paid through local donations or by family. Visit https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/public-or-private-which-school-is-best-for-your-child#:~: to become informed on the public school system vs. a private education. 

Alternative Education from the Public School System 

Parents in some areas of Tennessee, like Franklin, are pulling their kids from the public school system, with some having access to ESA—education savings accounts—to send them to private schools instead. These entities are privately run and funded via tuition. 

The ESA program approval is gradually making its way across the United States, with a few states universally on board. Tennessee has yet to go universal. Only a couple of locations are using some of the funding. 

Let’s look at the alternative options from the public school system, and then we’ll explain the ESA program more in-depth. 

  • Private schools: These entities are affiliated with a “department” or state board of education-approved association as either members or an accreditation. 
  • Religious schools: Religious schools are run by a church organization, parochial association, or denomination affiliation and are required to meet membership/accreditation standards as determined by Tennessee codes. Some Home school umbrella programs are run under the religious system. 
  • Independent Home Schools: These function under the direction of a parent or guardian who oversees their child’s education in the home environment.  

The ESA program allows parents to take what they understand about their kids’ individual learning styles and work with their strengths to find an educational system that caters to these.  

Since the universal introduction in 2021, roughly 11 states have utilized some form of education savings accounts or expanded on a plan started previously, which is becoming a favored policy among conservatives in the legislature. 

The program allows so much for each family to gain access to public “per-pupil” funding to finance tuition for private education, curriculum material, homeschooling supplies, or educational therapy services.  

It was initially reserved for kids in a poor educational institution, children with disabilities, and those with low income. After the pandemic, more states began searching for universal student options.  

Proponents of the policies feel the program allows a new vision for education where parents look for ways to meet their child’s needs with a tailor-fit program instead of conforming to the constraints and regulations of the public school system. 

Opponents, however, are not sold. They find the research inconclusive regarding the academic efficacy of a varied education platform funded in this way. Their concern is that these are unregulated programs that lack adequate testing or the financial accountability necessary for parents.  

They further argue that this substantial funding would be better used to strengthen the public school system, closing its funding gaps. Let’s review the ESA progression, how it can impact the school districts, and what it can mean for parents and their children. 

The number of states with ESA funding programs 

There are roughly 11 states with programs as of “March 2023” including: 

  • Arizona 
  • Arkansas 
  • Florida 
  • Indiana 
  • Iowa 
  • Mississippi 
  • New Hampshire 
  • North Carolina 
  • Tennessee 
  • Utah 
  • West Virginia 

Some reserve eligibility to kids with disabilities, those in a particular area of the state, those currently attending a public/public charter school, or anyone struggling according to state criteria.  

Arizona was the first to offer the program to all kids. Iowa, Arkansas, Florida, and Utah are prepped to follow. Tennessee is still very limited in its capacity, but it’s on the map. Go here for details on Tennessee’s legislative ruling on the universal ESA program. 

The amount state allots for ESAs 

Some states limit the funds parents can receive through the program. Mississippi caps the reward at roughly $7000. Arizona pays approximately 90 percent per pupil, calculated at roughly $6500. 

The differences between ESAs and other state-funded vouchers or tax credits 

School tax credits and vouchers are mandated for tuition or primary private school expenses. In contrast, ESA funding offers a broad range that gives parents more freedom to give their kids a custom structure for their education.  

Existing tax-exempt savings accounts, such as Coverdell savings accounts and 529 plans, are state-managed, but individual account holders fund them. ESAs are state-sponsored and funded. 

The evolution of the program since its introduction 

In the last two years, universal programs have gained considerable support. A majority (7) of the 11 states have passed the policy since 2021, with four doing so recently.  

Six of these are making the program near universal or universal. Arizona was responsible for making the program accessible to all students in 2021. The state passed the first ESA law in 2011.  

Educational freedom accounts will be accessible to any student in Arkansas in this coming school year, and the government will deposit “90 percent local and state per-pupil funding.”  

This allows families to pay for private school tuition, uniforms, supplies, transportation, tutoring, and other expenses approved by the education department. The only qualifying factor is that the child lives in Arkansas. 

Does ESA funding take away from the public school system 

Some districts indicate the programs are not impacting operations or enrollment at this point, but that can readily change. Many of the kids using the program weren’t attending public school in the first place.  

Some opponents feel it’s one thing to allow a parent control over a child’s education but another to allow that same parent control over the funds spent on education, deciding where the money goes and where the education is delivered.  

“The public side of education ensures taxpayer money is spent responsibly since not all parents are trustworthy.” credit to Chuck Essig, director of government relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials. 

Supporters of ESAs consider their legal victories as fuel for permanently transforming the educational landscape. The goal is to fund education and tailor-fit children’s programs in a more friendly, accessible, and beneficial format.