IEA Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Individualized Education Account Program?
The Individualized Education Account (IEA) Program is a school choice program for eligible students with disabilities. The IEA Program creates individualized education accounts (IEAs) for eligible students in grades K-12to use for educational purposes. The program provides options for parents of eligible students to choose the educational opportunities that best meet the individual needs of their child by giving them direct access to state and local public education funds associated with their child.
- Who is eligible for the IEA funds?
Student eligibility requirements are set by state law, and the department cannot make exceptions. Students are eligible to receive an IEA if they meet all of the following four criteria:
- is a Tennessee resident; and
- has an active individualized education program (IEP)* in effect at the time of request for participation in the program; (If you have questions about your child's IEP status, please contact the public school district in which your student is enrolled.); and
- has one of the following disabilities in the active IEP as the primary or secondary disability at the time of request for participation in the program:
- developmental delay,**
- hearing impairments,
- intellectual disability,
- multiple disabilities,**
- orthopedic impairments,
- traumatic brain injury, or
- visual impairments; and
- meets at least one of the following requirements:
- was previously enrolled in and attended a Tennessee public school for the one full school year immediately preceding the school year in which the student receives an IEA;
- is entering kindergarten for the first time;***
- moved to Tennessee within six months prior to the date the student receives an IEA;** or
- received an IEA in the previous year.
* In accordance with 34 C.F.R § 300 et seq., § 49-10-102, and regulations of the state board of education
** Beginning May 5, 2017
*** If a student has an active IEP prior to enrolling in kindergarten (i.e., in pre-K) and the IEP is active at the time of request for participation in the IEA Program, the student will be eligible to receive an IEA without having to attend a Tennessee public school; however, the student may have to be enrolled in a public school (e.g., pre-K) to keep the IEP active through the date the IEA application is submitted. Please note: For more information about IEPs, parents should contact their school district.
For more information, see Chapter 2 of the IEA Parent Handbook.
A helpful resource to learn about student eligibility is the 'Is my child eligible?' quiz.If you have questions about whether or not your child is eligible for the IEA Program, please email IEA.Questions@tn.gov.
- How much funding will students in the IEA Program receive?
The maximum annual amount is equal to the amount representing the per-pupil state and local funds generated and required through the Basic Education Program (BEP)—the state's funding formula for public education—for the school district in which the student resides and is zoned to attend. For a list of the payment amounts, please see the Per Pupil Funding Guide for Parents posted on the IEA webpage.
- How will IEA funds be disbursed to parents/students?
The department will distribute the IEA payments onto a pre-paid IEA debit card. The IEA Program is a direct-payment program, not a reimbursement program. For more information, see Chapter 7 of the IEA Parent Handbook. For the payment schedule, see the Key Dates webpage.
- Is there a limit on the number of students who can receive an IEA?
No. Any student who is eligible for an IEA may participate after they submit an application, receive approval from the department, and complete the entire IEA enrollment process.
- Can a student attend a public school full time while participating in the IEA Program?
No. Students in the IEA Program cannot be enrolled full time in a public school. Once a student enrolls in the IEA Program (Aug. 1 of the IEA contract period), they must enroll in and attend either a private school or an independent home school in accordance with Tennessee's school attendance law. For more information, see Chapter 3 of the IEA Parent Handbook.
- Are students in grades K–12 who are enrolled private school eligible for the IEA Program?
No. Students must be enrolled in and have attended a Tennessee public school for one full school year immediately preceding the school year in which the student receives an IEA.
- Is an IFSP, IPP or an ISP the same as an IEP?
No. IFSPs, IPPs, and ISPs are not the same as an IEP and do not meet the requirement set in state law for eligibility for the IEA Program. Since an active IEP is one of the eligibility requirements set in state law, students with IFSPs, ISPs, or IPPs would not qualify for the IEA Program.
- Do students entering kindergarten have to attend a public school to be eligible to receive an IEA?
If a student has an active IEP prior to enrolling in kindergarten (i.e., in pre-K) and the IEP is active at the time of request for participation in the IEA Program, the student will be eligible to receive an IEA without having to attend a Tennessee public school; however, the student may have to be enrolled in a public school (e.g., pre-K) to keep the IEP active through the date the IEA application is submitted. Please note: For more information about IEPs, parents should contact their school district.
- I have a question about my student's IEP or the services in my student's IEP. Who can I contact?
The IEA team cannot provide information on IEPs. You can contact your local public school, the special education supervisor for your public school district, or one of the department's IDEA complaints investigators whose contact information is available on the department's directory.
- Can IEA funds be used for pre-K?
No. Students must be in grades K–12 in order to enroll in in the IEA program and use IEA funds.
- Can students in, or entering, postsecondary enroll in the IEA Program?
No. Students must be in grades K–12 in order to enroll in in the IEA Program and use IEA funds. If the student is enrolled in the IEA Program and graduates from high school, and if the account holder has leftover funds in the IEA and wishes to enroll the student in a postsecondary institution, they may use the remaining funds for approved IEA expenses used for the student's postsecondary education. Postsecondary students in the IEA Program do not receive any additional payments to their IEA. For more information, see Chapter 12 of the IEA Parent Handbook.
- Are students enrolled in the IEA Program eligible for a services plan through their local school district?
No. In order to enroll in the IEA Program, parents must waive all the rights of the student to IDEA services, the right to a public education, and the right for a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
- Are students enrolled in the IEA Program eligible for funds and accommodations through Section 504?
Possibly. If a participating school or provider is a recipient of federal funds, accommodations may be available pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Students or parents should inquire of the school or provider regarding the applicability of Section 504.
- Are there any testing requirements for the IEA Program?
Yes. Students may be required to take assessments if they are in the IEA Program. See Chapter 6 of the IEA Parent Handbook.
- Will the results of the student assessments be publicly released?
No. The TDOE will not compile, track, or publicly release student assessment results; student assessment results submitted to the TDOE will only be reviewed to verify that the student has taken the required assessments. All assessments will be for parents' information and use only. For more information, see Chapter 6 of the IEA Parent Handbook.
- How can the IEA funds be used?
The IEA Program has 15 approved uses of funds set in state law. For a description of the approved uses of funds, see Chapters 8, 9, and 10 of the IEA Parent Handbook.
- What private schools can IEA funds be used at?
IEA funds can be used to pay for tuition, fees, and required textbooks only at private schools approved to participate in the IEA Program and listed on the IEA Participating Schools list for that IEA contract year. The list of participating schools is available here. For more information, see Chapter 8 of the IEA Parent Handbook. Once enrolled in the IEA Program, students can attend any nonpublic school, including private schools and independent home schools; however, IEA funds can only be used to pay for the tuition, fees, and required textbooks at participating schools.
- What happens to the funds if I choose to re-enroll my child in public school?
Any funds remaining will be returned to the state treasurer to be placed in the BEP account of the education trust fund.
- How long can my child be in the program?
A student who enrolls in the program is eligible to continue participation until he/she returns to a public school, graduates from high school, or reaches 22 years of age by August 15 for the next school year, whichever occurs first.
- How do I enroll my child in the IEA program?
For information on enrolling your child in the IEA Program, see the Student Application and Renewal webpage, and Chapter 5 of the IEA Parent Handbook. The IEA Program has only one student application window each year; the application window will be announced through the IEA Update, the monthly email newsletter distributed by the department, which you can subscribe to receive.
- If my student's application is approved for the IEA Program, can I change my mind and keep my child in public school? If so, how long do I have in order to make this final decision?
Yes. The IEA Application is just the first step in enrolling your student in the IEA Program.
If your application is approved, you will receive a notification from the IEA team that will explain the next steps for completing the IEA enrollment process. You can withdraw your IEA student application at any time before the effective date of Aug. 1, by emailing IEA.Questions@tn.gov. Withdrawing your application before Aug. 1 will not impact your student's public school enrollment or IEP status.
- Must school districts include students enrolled in the IEA Program when determining the amount of federal IDEA funds to share with private schools?
No. In order for a student to enroll in the IEA Program, parents waive all rights of the student to IDEA services, including associated funding.
- What responsibilities do school districts have for students enrolled in the IEA Program?
For a list of the responsibilities, see the IEA School District Responsibilities Guide and the IEA EIS and SIS Guide.
- How do school districts code students enrolled in the IEA Program?
For instructions on how to code students receiving IEAs in EIS, see the IEA EIS and SIS Guide.
- How can a school district change the name or contact information for the IEA LEA liaison?
To change the name or contact information for the IEA LEA liaison, email IEA.Questions@tn.gov.
- Does the TDOE pay schools and/or providers directly?
No. Parents receive the IEA funding and will pay the schools/providers with which they contract. Parents are solely responsible for determining how to use the IEA funds allocated to their student following the laws, rules, and procedures of the IEA Program. The parent is responsible for any contract signed with a school, individual, and/or provider and ensuring that the terms of the contract are fulfilled. The TDOE cannot void a private contract, give legal advice, or arbitrate payment schedules.
- Can therapists and tutors apply directly to the TDOE to be approved to receive IEA funds?
No. Tutors and therapists cannot apply directly to participate in the IEA Program. Instead, parents/guardians of students enrolled in the IEA Program must submit the appropriate pre-approval form to the TDOE following the procedures in Chapter 9 of the IEA Parent Handbook.