School funding question remains in Tennessee
As Tennessee moves closer to changing its education funding formula for the first time in decades, one of the most consequential questions remains unanswered.
- Gov. Bill Lee has yet to say how much money he would put toward the formula, a factor many experts say is as important as the formula itself.
Why it matters: Lee's administration is quick to point out education funding has grown throughout his term, but the state remains nationally on the lower end of the funding scale.
- The impact of a new formula will rise or fall based on the amount of money behind it.
State of play: The Tennessee Department of Education released a four-page draft plan last week that didn't include any dollar figures. The department is now reviewing public feedback of the plan.
- Lee spokesperson Casey Black tells Axios there is "no firm timeline" for how quickly the process will move forward. Key legislators support considering a new formula this year.
- Black said an increase in education funding is "likely," but did not discuss details.
Driving the news: The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) released a memo this week outlining recommendations for improving education funding in Tennessee.
- The memo called for a formula that allocates district funding based on specific student needs, which the state is moving toward.
- It also recommended $1 billion in new, recurring state funding.
What they're saying: "We've got to add more resources to K-12 education under a new formula," SCORE president and CEO David Mansouri tells Axios. Doing one without the other is "not going to be sufficient."
Zoom out: The Tennessee Alliance for Equity in Education released a report yesterday that included formula reforms and increased funding on a list of recommendations to transform public schools.
- The timing is ripe, the report stated, especially considering the influx of more than $4.5 billion in pandemic-related stimulus funds for education in Tennessee.
What's next: Lee's State of the State address on Jan. 31, and the corresponding budget proposal, could fill in some of the blanks.
The bottom line: "Until we see how much money is going to be committed to public education, these conversations are really just that: interesting conversations," Nashville Public Education Foundation president and CEO Katie Cour tells Axios.
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