Many people have mixed feelings on Governor Lee’s proposed Education Freedom Scholarship Act. Educators, Parents, and community members alike have taken to social media to express both support and disdain for this act.
If passed the Education Freedom Act would give parents and students more choices when it comes to school choices. Lee proposed starting in the 2024-2025 school year with 20,000 scholarships with half slated for people at or below 300% of the federal poverty level, have a disability or are eligible for the existing ESA pilot program. The other half would be available to a universal pool of students who are entitled to attend a public school. In future years the universal eligibility will be for all Tennessee students prioritizing currently enrolled students, low-income and public school students if demands exceed funding.
Currently for the continental U.S. the 300% federal poverty level would be a household of four people making $90,000 or less annually or $7,500 or less monthly. The average income for a family of four in Tennessee is $91,069 according to the department of Justice. Which would roughly entitle half of Tennessee students to the scholarships in the first year alone, looking at just the financial impact.
But again, what does this mean for students in Tennessee, and more specifically the more rural areas of the state such as the Upper Cumberland.
Jackson County Director of Schools, Jason Hardy stated, “My fear is that this new Education Freedom Act may adversely impact public schools throughout Tennessee, especially rural school districts. The loss of funds and loss of students to other schools could cause higher class sizes, fewer class offerings, and fewer extracurricular activities for our students in rural districts.”
Marisa Scott, a former Clay County High School teacher and current Cookeville High School teacher said she “ticked off” by the thought of the Education Freedom Act being implemented throughout Tennessee. Scott’s feelings have been mirrored in various online outlets, where former and current educators make the same point Hardy does stating class sizes, which directly impact student success, will suffer and in all students will suffer especially in areas that rely heavily on the public education system.
There is a lot that remains unseen with the proposed education but many education leaders are keeping the faith in their area schools.