Session Recap: Course Access
BY LINDSAY BOYD
In 2015, the Tennessee General Assembly became just the third legislature in the nation to pass an education savings account program, or “Individualized Education Accounts” as they’re called in the Volunteer State. Although this program is limited to students with special needs, it was nonetheless a tremendous victory for parents and a measurable move of the needle that finally put Tennessee on the school choice map. As we continued to fight for a broad opportunity scholarship program in 2016, we also recognized the need for more options outside urban areas for students attending public school. Thus, we introduced and unanimously passed Course Access- a customized approach to education that gives students across the state the same access to specialized courses that may not currently be offered within their district.
Course Access, a program eligible for enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year, will allow local schools or school districts to partner with one-another, share resources, and expand curriculum for students without incurring additional costs. For example, if a student in rural West Tennessee would like to take an AP Physics course not offered at his or her school of full-time enrollment, that student may access an online catalog of “Course Access” classes offered by other school districts across the state and enroll in AP Physics through an online portal. No longer will children be limited by geography, technology, or the ability of a local school to higher specialized instructors. Instead, the funding necessary for that particular course comes from the current per pupil education finding for that student, and is simply “backpacked” to the school offering that particular course access program material.
If you are interested in learning more about this program and how your student can participate, please stay tuned for more details as we begin the rule-making process with the Department of Education over the summer and fall. You can also sign up for our newsletter here.