Using a forecast of $9 billion, Governor Bill Lee’s proposed funding formula for the 2023-24 fiscal year would start the state’s one million students with a base amount of $6,860 and then add more. more based on individual needs ranging from economic disadvantages to disabilities.
Lee seeks to replace the “complex” basic education curriculum with a simpler formula. But this one also has a wide variety of factors and percentages it uses to determine how much money will go to each school district in the state based on each student’s needs.
Governor introduces plan at 11 a.m. Thursday, as more than 80 districts sue state for more education funds and arguments to make in Tennessee Supreme Court over its college savings account program , which directs public funds to private schools. Education Commissioner Penny Scwhinn provided insight during an earlier Senate briefing.
Under Lee’s proposal, dubbed Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement, the more trouble a student faces, the greater the funding. Students could also get funding for success, such as learning to read at grade level as early as third grade and performing well on the ACT or industry tests in high school.
The money for every student across more than 140 districts covers a range of situations.
For example, a student from an economically disadvantaged family living in a sparsely populated area and attending a small school district with “unique” learning needs could qualify for total funding of $15,592. In contrast, a student who learns to read well in grade two and only struggles with a learning disability such as dyslexia could be targeted to receive a total of $8,732.
The funds would flow through their school systems, and those projected totals are to be released Thursday.
Democrats and Republicans have debated whether there is enough time in this legislative session, which is expected to end in mid-April, to accurately assess Lee’s new funding proposal.
But with February ending and the legislature hoping for a recess by mid-to-late April, the governor faces a difficult task.
“In the weeks ahead, I look forward to working with our General Assembly partners to pass this important legislation and improve how Tennessee funds public education for the first time in more than 30 years.” Lee said in a statement.
School districts across the state would be required to publicly report funding and spending online, and they could come up against a panel of lawmakers if they don’t do well.
The Tennessee Department of Education would also implement an academic analysis of each district each year in which the comptroller’s office could review districts with poor performance.
The state plans $9 billion in total education funding for fiscal year 2024, when Tennessee’s investment in student success is expected to go into effect.
The Lee administration hopes to pass it this year, although the governor has built a hedge in case it is not approved this session.
Republicans and Democrats have raised questions about whether lawmakers have enough time to review and digest the plan and vote on it this session.
Democrats argue the funding is still far short of what’s needed to bring Tennessee in line with neighboring states such as Alabama. They also argue that this formula is just as complex as the BEP.
School districts would not be required to increase their share of the funding formula, about 30%, for four years under the proposal, according to Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. In fiscal year 2026-2027, local funding would increase in the same way it does under the current basic education program.
The governor is pumping about $1 billion into K-12 education this year, but $750 million will go to technical education and relocating schools to floodplains. The following year, it would be directed to formula funding.
Schwinn argued Wednesday that if the Legislature were to invest $1 billion directly in the funding formula this year, it would require 25% of school districts to raise taxes to increase their funding share.
“TISA adds state funding without raising taxes,” Schwinn said.
Under the plan, $6.6 billion would go towards basic student needs and cover the salaries of teachers, nurses, counselors, principals and technology.
An additional $1.8 billion would go to factors such as economically disadvantaged and concentrated poverty, sparsely populated communities, small school districts, and “unique” learning needs such as dyslexia and learning English .
The plan targets $500 to improve literacy, $500 for literacy tutoring, an average of $5,000 per student to strengthen and expand vocational and technical education, and $185 per student to pay administrators for post-secondary assessments such as than ACT.
An additional $100 million would go to student bonuses when they demonstrate success in learning to read at grade level by the end of third year, as well as performing well on ACT and industry credential tests.
The governor has promised to spend $125 million on teacher salaries in the 2022-23 fiscal year. Questions are raised every year about whether these pay increases are affecting teachers’ paychecks.
According to Schwinn, if these increases continue, they will have to move on to salary increases while “proportionate” increases would be made to starting salaries.