Public education funding announcement causes ripples

Public education funding announcement causes ripples

Gov. Bill Lee speaking during the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Bill Lee’s announcement that he would seek to review — and potentially change — public education funding rippled through Nashville over the weekend.

  • The scope of the proposed revamp remains an open question. Lee said he would seek public input for 90 days.

Why it matters: The state’s complicated Basic Education Program funding formula, which is used to determine how much money public schools receive, has long been criticized as insufficient. Metro Nashville Public Schools is part of an ongoing lawsuit challenging the funding rubric, which is sure to loom large over Lee’s effort.

Between the lines: Lee’s administration suggested the formula would be redesigned to focus on individual student needs rather than broader staffing and administrative needs.

Yes, but: Chalkbeat Tennessee reported that language could create a model which steers more funding toward vouchers and charter schools.

Flashback: Advocacy groups and review committees have proposed many changes to the formula over the years.

  • In a statement after Lee’s announcement Friday, the Nashville Public Education Foundation said it was “cautiously optimistic” about the upcoming review.

Context: Tennessee’s annual budget allocates more to education than anything else, but the funding still pales in comparison to most other states.

  • “The real problem here isn’t the complicated formula to split up the BEP funds. The problem is the uncomplicated decision to invest fewer dollars in education than basically every other state,” State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said in a statement to the Tennessean.
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