Feb 1, 2022 - Politics

Budget proposal includes $1 billion in new education funding

Illustration of a chalkboard with three digital-style dollar signs on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Gov. Bill Lee's budget proposal includes more than $1 billion in new recurring funding for K-12 education, much of which would go toward a funding formula his administration is still developing.

  • Lee announced the funding push last night during his State of the State address.

Why it matters: The influx of state money seeks to address a long-standing problem. Tennessee's education has for years been near the bottom of national rankings.

Between the lines: It would require legislative approval, which is not a foregone conclusion. Lee's administration wants to send $750 million in additional annual funding to the formula starting with the 2023-24 budget cycle.

  • That amount was included in this year's budget proposal as a placeholder, but for now it would be used for one-time expenses that include technical education improvements and moving 14 public schools out of flood plains.
  • Additional increases include more than $124 million in recurring funding to boost the teacher salary pool.

What they're saying: "A $1 billion investment in public schools is long overdue and about half of what we actually need just to get out of the basement," State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville tweeted.

  • "We need to see the details to make sure this (money) actually makes it to schools now and isn't contingent on formula changes."

Meanwhile, Lee's $52.6 billion budget also allocates $623 million for road projects and $200 million toward expanding the state's network of technical colleges.

  • Lee touted robust funding for law enforcement during his speech Monday. His budget includes $356 million for a new law enforcement training facility, plus funding for 100 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers and 50 new TBI employees.
  • The governor also wants to send $250 million to Tennessee State University for campus improvements. A state analysis found the historically Black institution had been significantly underfunded in the past.

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