Tennessee governor signs public education funding formula into law
Governor Bill Lee signed his plan to change the way Tennessee funds public education and promised that every parent will soon know exactly how much the state is spending on their child’s K-12 education.
Lee also said he intends to sign another bill to allow the Tennessee Textbook Commission to override local school board decisions and ban certain school library materials nationwide. State.
The funding bill signing took place Monday in the auditorium of Franklin High School, where Lee graduated in 1977 from the Williamson County School District south of Nashville.
“I wanted to do this in my public high school,” the governor said, hailing the formula as a historic change that “will take us to a new frontier.”
Known as the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement, or TISA, the law sets a base funding rate of $6,860 per student, then distributes additional funding to students from economically disadvantaged families with unique learning needs. or living in rural or poor communities.
TISA was the centerpiece of the Republican governor’s legislative agenda, and the GOP-controlled legislature approved it on April 28, the last day of this year’s legislative session. With the new law, Tennessee joins 38 other states and the District of Columbia in having some type of student-based funding model.
Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, TISA will replace the state’s 30-year-old Basic Education Program funding formula, a complex means-based system that distributes money to school systems. based on student enrollment and assumptions about resources needed for staff, textbooks, technology, transportation, and dozens of other education-related costs.
The transition will require calculations to determine exactly how much money state and local governments are distributing to districts and charter schools for each student’s education.
“Starting today, when we put money into education, I think we’ll see exactly where it’s going and where it’s being spent,” Lee told reporters after signing the bill. “Families can actually see the amount of money that is going to be committed for their individual children in the public school they choose to go to.”
Lee, who is seeking a second term this fall, has pledged to invest an additional $1 billion in the new formula when it takes effect next year.
But even an additional $1 billion in TISA won’t significantly change Tennessee’s mid-1940s national ranking in public education funding — a point seized upon by Democrats who have sought an investment of $1 billion. billion in the state’s current funding formula this year.
“I can’t help but acknowledge that this has been a squandered opportunity,” Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro said last week, citing the state’s historic revenue surplus and billions in federal COVID relief funding dollars.
“We could have made literally game-changing investments — not just in public education, but also in child care and health care and making housing more affordable,” said Yarbro, a Democrat from Nashville. “And we failed to do that.”
The state’s 2022-23 budget includes $125 million more for teacher salaries — the equivalent of a 3% increase — and $500 million in one-time funding for vocational and technical education for students middle and high schools, plus money for early literacy programs, summer camps and charter schools.
Lee called this year’s investment “historic,” even when adjusted for inflation.
“It’s important that we make this important investment,” he told reporters. “And then, of course, we will look like we do every year in the future with what the next steps are.”
Lee to sign second major school library bill
The latest school library bill sets up an appeals process in which the state textbook commission can overrule local school board decisions about disputed materials. The politically appointed body could then order a statewide ban on certain books it deems “inappropriate for the age or level of maturity” of students who can access them.
The legislation was passed last week, a month after Lee signed into law his own plan requiring school libraries to review their materials for “age appropriateness”. However, Lee’s plan leaves it up to each school system to define what is considered age-appropriate in its community.
The Tennessee School Librarians Association urged Lee to veto the second bill after his sponsor, Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station, suggested on the House floor that he would ‘burn’ some documents of library.
“We believe this undermines the governor’s own age-appropriate library bill by removing local control of school libraries from the purview of school boards,” said Lindsey Kimery, who serves on the board of directors of organization of libraries.
But Lee said Monday he backs the new bill as “another step in oversight.”
“The General Assembly felt it was appropriate,” Lee said. “This was done in conjunction with my belief that parents should have the ability to know what their children have access to in libraries and classrooms.”
Marta W. Aldrich is senior correspondent and covers the Chalkbeat Tennessee State House. Contact her at [email protected]