NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Gov. Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn on Friday announced plans to review how the state funds its multibillion-dollar K-12 education system.
Lee and Schwinn hope that principals, families and other members of the public will provide feedback on how the system can be improved over the coming months. While no specific timeline has yet been set, state officials say they want to make suggestions to the General Assembly by next year.
The state will organize public meetings, inquiries and other events to gather comments and help formulate recommendations. Lee said his team already had a few “suggestions,” but the Republican has remained largely silent on what exactly he would change.
“Kindergarten to Grade 12 funding is complicated, it’s bureaucratic. Everyone recognizes that our… formula is a formula that few people understand and many don’t like, ”Lee told reporters.
Known as the Basic Education Program, the Tennessee Schools Funding Formula has 45 components that are all used to determine how much funding each school should receive for teacher salaries and other expenses.
It has long been criticized for its complexity and disuse since its adoption almost 30 years ago. He even faced lawsuits from school boards for failing to meet Tennessee’s constitutional obligation to provide students with “free, adequate and fair education.” A court challenge, originally filed six years ago on behalf of more than half of the state’s school districts, is expected to go to trial in February.
Democratic lawmakers quickly responded on Friday that the state needed more investment in the public education system.
“This review has the opportunity to make a significant update to the distribution formula, but tackling the larger problem of underfunding is essential to ensure the success of these reforms,” said Democratic Senator Raumesh Akbari , who sits on the Senate Education Committee.
The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ organization, has also called for increased funding for schools as part of any overhaul of the funding formula.
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