Diocesan schools prepared to move forward with ESA programs

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The Diocese of Nashville Catholic Schools Office and diocesan Catholic schools that are eligible to participate in the state’s Education Savings Account Program (ESA), have been very proactive in understanding and promoting the ESA program, said Dr. Tony Bonta, assistant superintendent for operational vitality for the Diocese of Nashville.

Eight of the diocesan or parochial schools have been approved as ESA Schools by the Tennessee Department of Education and are ready to accept students who have applied for the ESA program.

Christ the King School, Holy Rosary Academy, St. Ann School, St. Edward School, St. Henry School, St. Pius X Classical Academy, St. Joseph School in Madison, and Pope John Paul II Preparatory School in Hendersonville have been approved as participating schools in the ESA program.  

As of Thursday, Aug. 18, other diocesan and parochial schools are still waiting for their approvals from the state.

“We are grateful to our Catholic school principals who have worked so hard to engage and complete this application process,” said Dr. Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Nashville. “It is very exciting and rewarding to receive approval letters for participation in the ESA Program from the Department of Education. Our principals are committed to helping the families make educated and informed choices for enrollment.”  

As of opening day of school on Monday, Aug. 8, the Catholic Schools Office was informed of five students who had applied for the ESA program in the eight approved schools. The state’s ESA application process is ongoing and eligible families are encouraged to apply.

Once students are notified of approval to receive ESA funds, they need to submit that official approval letter to the private school of their choice to let the school know that they are approved, Dr. Bonta said. Families should also submit admission applications to the school of their choice, as they will have to be accepted by the school before enrollment. Approval to participate in the ESA program does not guarantee acceptance into a private school, so dialogue with the school is important, he added.  

“We’re excited, we’re grateful, we’re ready. We are ready to participate in the ESA Program,” Dr. Bonta said. “The ESA program allows families who want to choose Catholic education to have an opportunity to participate in Catholic education that they might not have otherwise had.”  

ESA funds can be used toward tuition, fees, books and other educational expenses, such as tutoring, and is open to families in Davidson County who have been accepted to a private school. For the first year, ESA funds will be distributed directly to participating schools, reimbursing schools for student expenses.

All applicants must have either attended a public school for the year prior or are eligible for the first time to enroll in a Davidson County public school.

Additionally, the annual household income for the previous year must not be more than twice the federal income eligibility guidelines for free lunch.

Families who are applying for ESA for multiple students must fill out applications for each student.

For more information about ESA, visit https://esa.tnedu.gov/.  

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