More families landing in Catholic schools with help from ESA Program

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

The state Education Savings Account program continues to grow, allowing 12 schools across the Diocese of Nashville to welcome for the 2023-24 school year dozens of students who will be receiving the benefit of a Catholic education that otherwise might not have been possible. 

As of Wednesday, July 26, more than 140 ESA students are enrolled at one of the 10 participating diocesan and parochial schools in the area, as well as Overbrook Catholic School and St. Cecilia Academy, which are owned and operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation.

The 10 chools – Father Ryan High School, Christ the King School, St. Ann School, St. Edward School, Holy Rosary Academy, St. Pius X Classical Academy, and St. Henry School, all in Nashville; St. Matthew School in Franklin; St. Joseph School in Madison; and Pope John Paul II Preparatory School in Hendersonville – have been welcoming students since the early days of the program, which after a few governmental delays, became official in 2022.

The Education Savings Account program was adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2019 to provide funds, much like a scholarship, to eligible families in Davidson and Shelby Counties who want to send their children to a participating private school in the area. Funds can help families pay for tuition, books, uniforms, and more.

“We have been blessed by this program directing students towards our sweet school,” said Samantha Kaufman, principal of St. Pius X, who will jump from having six ESA students to 16 this school year. “This program allows St. Pius X to invite quality people into our school family without being held back by a financial burden.

“St. Pius X has always helped set the foundation for students to go on and be successful and Christ-like people. Through this program, we are able to reach students within our neighborhood and community who we may not have otherwise reached due to cost,” she continued. “This program has allowed us to increase our enrollment and continue to spread the good news of the Lord.”

The growth of the program for its second full year has not just meant being able to welcome brand new students into the halls of the schools. For St. Ann and St. Edward, it has meant being able to have current families be relieved of the burdens of finding ways to pay the tuition.

“We have had so many families already in our school working hard to make it work, taking on multiple jobs just so they could pay the tuition,” said Anna Rumfola, principal of St. Ann, where ESA numbers will grow from five to 26 as the school year kicks off. “Now, being able to offer them that opportunity to qualify for ESA can maybe allow them to sit back and take a deep breath.

“The opportunity to be able to give a student a Catholic education who wants a Catholic education and being able to remove that tuition barrier is an outstanding blessing,” she added.

Susan Blankenship, principal of St. Edward, said the same of her dozens of ESA students enrolled, noting nearly half were families who had already been attending the school.

“It’s a huge help to be able to have that assistance for them now that they have qualified,” she said.

Additionally, Rumfola and Blankenship noted that many of the new ESA families have come from the school’s partner parish meaning the feeling of that faith community is only extended.

“This has given our church families the opportunity to be in a school where they know their child is loved,” Rumfola said. “They know they’re child is going to be pushed academically while also knowing they’re going to grow spiritually.”

“It’s allowing us to serve our own community,” Blankenship added. “We were working toward that already, but ESA accelerated it and made it more of a reality.”

The importance the ESA program has for any student has been proven, the principals agree, noting that more than anything, it offers choice.

“Parents are the ones who know what’s best for their child, and now parents have another avenue for choice,” Rumfola said. “Every child is different. Some thrive in public and charter schools, and some thrive in a Catholic school, so it’s important for parents to be able to have that availability.”

“It’s huge for the state of Tennessee to allow parents, who are in charge of their children’s education, to have this opportunity,” Blankenship added. “This levels the playing field with those families who could afford it without assistance, and now many more parents have the opportunity to choose the kind of education they want for their children.

“A lot of the families that have come through ESA were parents already seeking choice,” she continued. “A lot have already tried public school, they’ve tried a charter school, but they were really looking for that Catholic piece, that religious piece, and that’s where we’re really serving these families.”

For more information about the ESA Program, visit

Subscribe to our email list

Keep your finger on the pulse of Catholic life in Middle Tennessee by subscribing to the
weekday E-Register here.

* indicates required