Tennessee: When is Enough, Enough?

by Anne-Marie Farmer

dollar-726881_1280Receiving this post from Anne-Marie is pure serendipity.  I spent several hours looking for examples of how states determine how much funding is needed to provide a high quality education for all students.  High quality education is mandated in Florida’s constitution. What does it mean?  How is it funded?  When is enough, enough?  The State is in a lawsuit about this.

Then, this post arrived from Tennessee.

Tennessee appears to have approached funding for education differently than Florida.  Our state seems to decide how much it is going to spend and then divides the money among districts using a per student funding formula.  Tennessee uses a  complicated system of 45 components to determine what education should cost.   Afterwards, they do a budget.  Sometimes what should be and what is do not match.

School Funding Developments in Tennessee:

At the state level, adequate school funding has long been a key priority of the Tennessee League of Women Voters. Unfortunately, there have been some troubling recent developments on this front. Every November, the Basic Education Program (“BEP”) Review Committee creates a set of recommendations for Tennessee’s.  school funding formula. While these recommendations have not been funded in the past, they offer an outline of what resources well-funded schools in Tennessee would require. Although the 2014 recommendations showed Tennessee needed over $500 million in additional public school funding from the state, this year’s committee shocked the education world by slashing those recommendations to only $45 million in additional funding. Many have speculated that the move to so dramatically reduce the recommended funding for Tennessee public schools is an attempt by state government to undermine the school funding lawsuits filed by several school districts, including Shelby and Hamilton counties. These lawsuits point to the years of unfunded review committee recommendations as evidence that Tennessee fails to sufficiently fund public schools as required by our state constitution. State officials deny that the lawsuits had anything to do with the change in recommendations. Items cut from the recommendations include an increase in the number of school nurses, reduced class sizes, technology personnel, and implementation of BEP 2.0.

The Tennessee Education Report blog (http://tnedreport.com/?p=1647) noted another disappointing reality on public school funding. While the state predicts a budget surplus of over $1 billion for fiscal years 2014-16, there are currently no discussions in state government of any significant new investments in our public schools. Road projects and cuts to revenue sources are being considered as ways to use this surplus, but not increased school funding. As a reminder, Tennessee ranks 49th in the nation for funding public schools. At a time when our schools face increasing demands and increasing challenges, for our state officials to fail to use this type of budget opportunity to remedy Tennessee’s woefully low level of school funding would truly be shameful.

 

Posted in Funding, Tennessee, Uncategorized.

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