School choice in Tennessee

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School choice refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public school to which they are assigned. Public school choice options include open enrollment policies, magnet schools and charter schools. Other options include traditional school vouchers, scholarship tax credits, personal tax credits and deductions and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to receive public funds directly for educational expenses.[1][2]

School choice options in Tennessee include: charter schools, intra-district and inter-district open enrollment policies and online learning programs. In addition, about 7.96 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.

Educational choice options

See also: Number of schools by school type in the U.S.

Charter schools

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, charter schools are defined as follows:[3]

Charter schools are public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies. In Tennessee, public charter school students are measured against the same academic standards as students in other public schools.

Local boards of education ensure that only those charter schools open and remain open that are meeting the needs of their students. Local boards do this through rigorous authorization processes, ongoing monitoring of the academic and financial performance of charter schools, and, when necessary, through the revocation or non-renewal of charters.[4]

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, there were 47 charter schools operating in Tennessee in the 2012-13 academic year. During that time, charter schools enrolled 10,803 students.[5][6]

Charter school authorizers are, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the organizations "designated to approve, monitor, renew, and, if necessary, close charter schools." As of June 2014, the following organizations were listed by NACSA as charter school authorizers in Tennessee:[7]

Tennessee charter school authorizers
Organization Authorizer type Number of schools overseen
Hamilton County Department of Education Local education agency 3
Memphis City Schools Local education agency 29
Nashville Metro Public Schools Local education agency 14
Shelby County Schools Local education agency 1
Tennessee Achievement School District Independent chartering board 3
Note: If the total number of charter schools accounted for in this table differs from the total number listed elsewhere on this page, the discrepancy owes to differing calculation methods and data sources.
Source: National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "Tennessee Charter Authorizers," accessed June 18, 2014

School vouchers and tax incentives

Tennessee provides neither school vouchers nor school choice tax incentives.[8]

Online learning

According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, there is one fully virtual statewide school in Tennessee (the Tennessee Virtual Academy), which served 1,679 students in the 2012-13 academic year. There are also several district-specific online learning programs in Tennessee, including the Hamilton County Virtual School and the Memphis Virtual School. The state-led online learning program ceased operations as of 2011.[9]

Private schools

In the 2011-12 school year, 78,679 students, or 7.96 percent of school age children, were enrolled in 453 private schools. Tennessee ranks 34th highest in the nation in private school attendance.[10]

Public school open enrollment

According to the Education Commission of the States, Tennessee has two open enrollment policies:[11]

  1. Intra-district/mandatory policy, which allows "students in low-performing schools, as designated by the state, to attend a different school within their school district"
  2. Intra-district/voluntary and inter-district/voluntary policies

Intra-district policies provide for the transfer of students within a school district, while inter-district policies allow students to transfer between districts. Under mandatory open enrollment policies, school districts are required to participate. Under voluntary policies, school districts may choose whether to participate.[11]


In Tennessee in 2012-2013 an estimated 29,078 students, or 2.67 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled.[12]

A summary of the state's laws relating to homeschooling can be accessed here.

School choice ballot measures

See also: School choice on the ballot and List of Tennessee ballot measures

Ballotpedia staff have tracked no statewide ballot measures relating to school choice in Tennessee.

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Tennessee + Education + Choice"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Tennessee School Choice News Feed

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See also