IEA Frequently Asked Questions

  • General IEA
  • Parents
  • Districts
  • Schools & Providers
  • What is the Individualized Education Account Program?

    The Individualized Education Account Program creates individualized education accounts (IEAs) for eligible students with disabilities to use for educational purposes. The program provides options for parents of certain students with disabilities 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.

    When does the Individualized Education Act go into effect?

    The law (Public Chapter 431) was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly during the 2015 legislative session. The State Board of Education (the board) and the Tennessee Department of Education (the department) are now in the process of developing implementation rules, regulations and policies. The first IEAs will be awarded in January 2017.

    Who is eligible for the IEA funds?

    An “eligible student” must be a Tennessee resident who meets all of the following criteria:

    1. has an active individualized education program (IEP) through a public school district in effect at the time of request for participation in the program; and
    2. meets at least one of the following requirements:
      • was previously enrolled in a Tennessee public school during the two semesters (or one full school year) immediately preceding the semester in which the student receives an IEA,
      • is entering kindergarten,*
      • moved to Tennessee within six months prior to the date the student receives an IEA, or
      • received an IEA in the previous year;** and
    3. has one of the following disabilities identified in their IEP as their primary or secondary disability:
      • autism,
      • deaf-blindness,
      • hearing impairments,
      • intellectual disability,
      • orthopedic impairments,
      • traumatic brain injury, and/or visual impairments.

    *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 until the date of enrollment in the IEA Program. If students are entering kindergarten in August 2016, the student would need to be enrolled in, and attend, a public school for the fall 2016 semester in order to be eligible to enroll in the IEA Program in Jan. 2017. Please note: for more information about IEPs, parents should contact their school district.

    **If a student has an active IEP in another state and moves to Tennessee, the student will have to register with the school district in which they reside in order to be eligible to participate in the IEA Program.

    How will IEA funds be disbursed to parents/students?

    The department will distribute the annual amount of the IEA payment in four equal quarterly payments. The funds will be deposited onto a pre-paid IEA debit card.

    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 completing the application process established by the department.

  • 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.

    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 until the date of enrollment in the IEA Program. If students are entering kindergarten in August 2016, the student would need to be enrolled in, and attend, a public school for the fall 2016 semester in order to be eligible to enroll in the IEA Program in Jan. 2016. Please note: for more information about IEPs, parents should contact their school district.
    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.

    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 take an alternative or portfolio assessment?

    Students must either take the state’s ELA and math assessments approved by the TDOE and listed in the IEA Parent Handbook or a norm-referenced test approved by the TDOE. The TDOE will include a list of the approved norm-referenced tests in the IEA Parent Handbook.

    Where do students take the assessments?

    Assessments

    Private School Students

    Homeschool Students

    State Tests

    Parents should contact the private school to ask them to order the tests from the state. The private school would administer the test.

    Parents should contact the school district with which they are registered in order for their student(s) to take the assessment.

    Norm-Referenced Tests

    Parents should contact the private school to ask if the school could order and administer the test. Depending on which test the parent chooses, the test could be ordered directly from the testing company or administered through a local testing center.

    Depending on which test the parent chooses, the test could be ordered directly from the testing company or administered through a local testing center.

    If my child is already in private school, can I participate in the IEA Program?

    No. A child must be enrolled in a Tennessee public school for at least two semesters preceding the request or be enrolling in a Tennessee school for the first time. 

    Can my child still stay enrolled in a public school if they are in the IEA program?

    No. In order to participate in the program, parents must sign an agreement not to enroll the student in a public school and release the LEA from all obligations to educate the student, which has the same effect as a refusal to consent to the receipt of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  A parent may use IEA funds to contract with a public school/ district to provide services to their child.

    How much funding will be available for my child?

    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 LEA in which the student resides and is zoned to attend. Currently, this amount averages approximately $6,300. The funds will be deposited into the student’s IEA on a quarterly basis.

    How do I enroll my child in the IEA program?

    The IEA program will begin accepting applications for January 2017 in summer 2016. Information on how to apply and participate in the IEA program will be posted on the IEA homepage.

    Where do I find my child's state ID?

    The students state ID can be found on the front page of their IEP.

    How can the IEA funds be used?

    The funds will be deposited into an IEA for education-related expenses, including any combination of the following:

    1. tuition or fees at a participating school;
    2. textbooks required by a participating school;
    3. tutoring services provided by a tutor accredited by a state, regional, or national accrediting organization;
    4. payment for purchase of a curriculum, including any supplemental materials required by the curriculum;
    5. fees for transportation paid to a fee-for-service transportation provider;
    6. tuition or fees for a nonpublic online learning program or course;
    7. fees for nationally standardized, norm-referenced achievement tests, Advanced Placement examinations, or any examinations related to college or university admission;
    8. contributions to Coverdell education savings account established under 26 U.S.C. § 530 for the benefit of the participating student, except that funds used for elementary or secondary education expenses shall be for expenses otherwise allowed;
    9. educational therapies or services for participating students from a licensed or accredited practitioner or provider, including licensed or accredited paraprofessionals or educational aides;
    10. services provided under contract with a public school, including individual classes and extracurricular programs;
    11. tuition or fees at an eligible postsecondary institution;
    12. textbooks required for courses at an eligible postsecondary institution;
    13. fees for the management of the IEA by private financial management firms; or
    14. computer hardware or other technological devices if approved by the Department or a physician and are used for student’s educational needs;
    15. can be used for an ABLE account.
    How do I access the funds?

    The department will distribute the annual amount of the IEA payment in four equal quarterly payments. The funds will be deposited onto a pre-paid IEA debit card.

    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 twenty-two (22) years of age by August 15 for the next school year, whichever occurs first.

    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 do I know which schools and services will be covered by the funds?

    Specific guidelines on an application and approval process for nonpublic schools and providers to become participating schools and participating providers will be developed by the board and the department and will be posted on the IEA homepage.

    Parents are encouraged to consider schools that provide inclusive educational settings that educate students with disabilities and students without disabilities together. Participating schools are required to notify the department if it provides inclusive educational settings, and the department must post the schools on its website.

    Does my child have to participate in state assessments if in the program?

    Yes, if your child is in grades 3-8, the law requires parents to ensure that the student is annually administered either a nationally norm-referenced test identified by the department or the Tennessee Comprehensive Achievement Program (TCAP) test. Students with disabilities for whom standardized testing is not appropriate and students in earlier or later grades are not required to participate in any standardized assessment.

    If my child has a service plan instead of an IEP, can my child enroll in the IEA Program?

    No. Service plans cannot be used as a substitute for an active IEP.

  • 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?

    Each year, school districts must report students enrolled in the Individualized Education Account (IEA) Program in Education Information System (EIS) using the classification code ‘8’. Districts must report students in full-time attendance using the course code for the IEA Program 9696.

    In order for a student to enroll in the IEA Program, parents waive all rights of the student to IDEA services, including associated funding. Students enrolled in the IEA Program are categorized with private school or homeschooled students. School districts do not have to provide any services to students enrolled in the IEA Program and are not accountable for their academic progress.

    The department will pull the IEA funding from districts' BEP allotment; districts do not have to distribute IEA funding.

    The department will send districts monthly IEA enrollment reports, including dates of student withdrawal from the IEA Program

    What is the course code for the IEA Program?

    The course code for the IEA Program is 9696, and the EIS classification code for the IEA Program is 8.

    What is the EIS classification code for the IEA Program?

    The EIS classification code for the IEA Program is 8.

  • 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 policies 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.