Frequently Asked Questions

Please click on the question below to learn more.

What is an IEA?

An Individualized Education Account (IEA) places public funds designated for an eligible special needs child in an account that Tennessee parents can use to cover the cost of their child’s unique needs, including private school tuition, online education, homeschooling, tutoring, therapies, and other approved expenses. The IEA program was created by the Tennessee legislature as an alternative to the traditional public school system, and is intended to give parents a way to provide a customized education for their child.

How do I apply for an IEA program?

  1. Interested parents should visit the Tennessee Department of Education’s website to learn more and apply.
  2. If the Tennessee Department of Education approves the application, a parent then signs the IEA contract.
  3. Once a parent has enrolled in the program, they must notify their current school district that their child will be participating in the IEA program.

Who is eligible for an IEA?

To be eligible, at the time of application a student must:

  1. Live in Tennessee
  2. Have an active Individualized Education Plan (IEP) through a Tennessee school district
  3. Have one of the following listed as their primary or secondary disability in their IEP:
    • • Autism
      • Deaf-blindness
      • Hearing impairment
      • Intellectual disability
      • Orthopedic impairment
      • Traumatic brain injury
      • Visual impairment
  4. Meet at least one of the following:

    • • Student attended a Tennessee public school during the two semesters (one full school year) immediately before receiving an IEA. (A child in a private school or homeschool currently is not eligible.)
      • Student is entering kindergarten. (Pre-K students are not eligible.)
      • Student recently moved to Tennessee from a state in which the student had an active IEP, and will enroll in the Tennessee IEA program within six months of moving. There is no cap on the number of students who can participate. There are no income or credit qualifications.

When are IEA applications due?

Applications for the spring 2017 semester open August 1, 2016 and close October 14, 2016. Applications for the 2017-18 academic year (beginning in fall 2017) will be due April 3, 2017 for first-time applicants and June 1, 2017 for existing IEA parents seeking to renew their participation.

When can I start using IEA funds?

A participating student’s funding will be broken into four quarterly payments deposited onto a prepaid debit card. The first group of approved students (those who apply and are accepted by November 15, 2016) will enroll in the IEA program beginning January 1, 2017.

How much IEA funding will my child receive?

The IEA funding amount awarded annually is 96 percent of the average amount your district spends per child. The IEA award will not include federal funds like Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds. The average amount of the IEA annual payment will be approximately $6,300, but will vary per district. Funds will be distributed in four equal payments on a prepaid debit card.

How can I use IEA funds?

Parents can use IEA funds to create a dynamic educational experience by choosing the best educational opportunities for their special needs child. Approved uses of IEA funds include:

    • Tuition and fees at a participating private school or private virtual school
    • Educational therapies
    • Tutoring services
    • Computer hardware and technological devices for educational purposes
    • Curriculum and supplemental materials (such as flashcards, workbooks, calculators, lab equipment, etc.)
    • Field trips
    • Transportation
    • Test fees
    • Contracted public school services (An IEA student cannot be enrolled full-time in a public school)
    • Homeschooling (Students are not eligible for the IEA program if they are already being homeschooled)
    • Coverdell Education Savings Account contributions
    • ABLE Account contributions
    • Postsecondary tuition, fees, and textbooks Funds cannot be used for pre-K expenses, as only K-12 students are eligible.

Parents can save for postsecondary education throughout their child’s participation in the IEA program by contributing to a Coverdell Education Savings Account or an ABLE Account. Unused IEA funds can roll over from year to year, but at least 50 percent of the annual IEA funds must be spent by the end of each academic year. Contributions to Coverdell and ABLE accounts count towards the 50 percent annual spending requirement. In addition to the money saved in Coverdell and ABLE accounts throughout a participating student’s K-12 education, once a participating child completes high school or reaches age 22, unused IEA funds also can be used for up to four years by the child for postsecondary education.

How do I pay for approved expenses?

Parents will be given a prepaid debit card that can be used to purchase approved expenditures. Parents are required to submit receipts and expense reports through the electronic IEA Portal, which can be accessed through a computer or smartphone. Parents can communicate with the Tennessee Department of Education about IEA reporting and other topics through the IEA portal, email or text message.

How long can my child have an IEA?

Eligible students can have an IEA until they graduate from high school, reach age 22 by August 15 for the next school year, or choose to return to a public school. Once a participating child completes high school or reaches age 22, unused IEA funds can be used for up to four years by the child for postsecondary education.

Will an IEA work for my child?

IEAs allow parents to customize their child’s education through private school tuition, homeschooling, therapy, tutoring, and other approved uses. IEAs are a private alternative to the public school system. Parents satisfied with their current public school and the services their child is receiving should consider remaining there. Under the IEA program, parents are responsible for finding private options (like private schools and educational therapists). Before signing an IEA contract, parents should consider the IEA funding amount awarded and whether or not this will cover the cost of the desired educational options together with their own financial resources.

What will I be giving up?

Upon receiving an IEA, a student exits the traditional public school system and their parent takes full legal responsibility for the student’s education, much like a parent who enrolls their child in a private school or chooses to homeschool. When a parent gains the flexibility to direct their child’s education through an IEA, the child will no longer have access to services provided by the public school as detailed in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

How can I learn more?

Tennessee’s IEA program is being administered by the Tennessee Department of Education. For the most up-to-date information on the IEA program, visit the Tennessee Department of Education’s IEA webpage. To learn more about programs in other states (which are often called Education Savings Accounts or Education Scholarship Accounts), visit the ExcelinEd webpage.


Apply for an IEA here.

Contact the IEA team at or (615) 253-3781.
Receive important IEA updates by subscribing here.