Feb 17, 2022 - Politics

School funding formula bill coming next week

Gov. Bill Lee talking at a podium

Gov. Bill Lee. Photo: Stephanie Amador/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

Gov. Bill Lee will unveil details behind his plan to redesign the education funding formula by releasing a bill next Thursday, his office said in a statement.

  • Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn told lawmakers the full plan will include district-level funding projections showing what they can expect to receive from the state.

Why it matters: Legislation outlining the contours of Lee's plan will instantly become a dominant issue for the General Assembly.

  • Lee included extra funding for the new model in his budget proposal but has yet to discuss specifics that will dictate how that funding would be allocated.

Flashback: Education officials released a draft plan last month saying the new formula would allocate funding based on the needs of individual students rather than starting with broader district needs.

What we're watching: It is unclear if lawmakers will vote on the plan during the current session or if they might wait a year.

  • Lee's budget proposal calls for the new formula to take effect during fiscal year 2024, which could give the legislature some wiggle room.
  • House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said in a statement to Axios that he's aiming to vote this year.
  • Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said in a statement it was a "desperately needed" discussion he would remain engaged in "whether this is a one-year or a multi-year process."

What they're saying: State Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) tells Axios the main thing he's looking for when the details are released is "basic fairness for Nashville."

  • Mitchell says he's concerned the Lee administration will not factor in the high cost of living in Nashville, which makes it harder to hire teachers. He wants the formula to consider that when setting teacher salaries.
  • "We all know what the home prices are doing here," Mitchell says. "I want a teacher focused on teaching my kid, not having to worry about the second job he or she may have to get to have a decent living."
  • David Mansouri, president and CEO of education advocacy group SCORE, tells Axios he wants to see added funding going to students "with the greatest learning needs" as well as for students in rural areas and areas of "concentrated poverty."

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