Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Ed Commissioner Penny Schwinn Launch Student-Centered Funding Approach for Public School Students

Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn presented details Thursday of the legislation for the new student-based funding formula, known as the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement formula (TISA).

During a live stream presentation, the governor said that, following input from people all over the state, they now have “a piece of legislation and a funding formula that Tennesseans can understand, that parents can understand, that teachers and districts can understand.”

Lee explained the current Basic Education Program [BEP] formula is “cumbersome and outdated”:

Funding for The BEP doesn’t deserve a billion dollars to be put in it, but our students do deserve a billion dollar increase in public education funding. They do deserve funding that ensures that our third-graders can read, and they do deserve funding that makes sure that they have a pathway that prepares them for life beyond the classroom. And they deserve funding that fits every student’s individual needs and circumstances. And this formula is designed to do just that.

“Here’s the most important change,” Lee said:

We are funding public education based on the individual needs of the students that access that … public education. We are making sure that parents understand that their child is receiving the funding for their public education based on their child’s unique needs, whether that’s concentrated poverty, a disability, a rural school. Individual needs will have individual funding decisions around it. And that’s what’s most important about this student centered funding.

The TISA would include the following components:

  • Student-based funding starts with a base funding amount for every public-school student.
  • Additional funding may then be allocated based on weights to address individual student needs.
  • Direct funding is another opportunity for students to receive additional funding allocations to support specific programs, like tutoring.
  • Outcome incentives are awarded based on student achievement to empower schools to help all students reach their full potential.

JC Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee said in a statement about the proposed TISA:

We recognize that the current Basic Education Program (BEP) formula does not reflect the actual cost of educating a student in Tennessee. It is also too complex and difficult to explain. We have advocated for modernizing the formula, as well as adding additional funding for years. We appreciate Governor Lee’s willingness to look at this critical issue. We are cautiously optimistic about the new Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), understanding there is a lot of work left to do. However, before rushing this funding initiative into law, it’s important to get it right.

“Like President Ronald Reagan maintained: ‘Trust, but verify,’” Bowman added. “More attention and analysis are needed. A change only to the funding system does not guarantee adequate resources or provide students with sufficient opportunities to learn.”

In a statement to The Tennessee Star, Aaron Garth Smith, director of education policy at the Reason Foundation, said:

There’s widespread agreement that Tennessee’s approach to education funding is antiquated and Governor Lee’s proposal would put the focus exactly where it belongs: on students. Currently, only three percent of funding is allocated based on student characteristics, and policymakers lack a lever for targeting dollars to where they’re needed most. Moving to a student-centered funding system would increase transparency and be a big win for students, educators, and taxpayers.

The draft framework of the proposed student-centered funding formula can be viewed here.

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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]




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6 Thoughts to “Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Ed Commissioner Penny Schwinn Launch Student-Centered Funding Approach for Public School Students”

  1. Barbara

    This is not such a good idea. Please go to archive.org and download or read on the site this book by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt


    You can also read School World Order by John Klyczek to see what the governor and his horrid Commissioner, Penny Schwinn, are up to and know that most conservatives are up to no good and are no better than Democrats.

  2. rick

    This looks good in the press for Lee and the carpetbagger queen Schwinn, but if money had been the issue Shelby County would have the best schools in the state, they have received more federal money over the years than any other system in Tennessee and they are in a running battle for the worst system in the state with Metro Schools. Dr Battle, Metro’s superintendent is doing a terrible job with help from commie cooper, she got their by politics and that is the game she plays. Really good educators if they possibly can are getting out as quickly as possible, really sad how education as society has been lowered to new levels never imagined before. Throwing money at education is a nice try but will not work. Money is the easiest move for politicians to make as they do not know what else to do. They know how to spend our money ask Lee and Cooper!

  3. 83ragtop50

    Please stop posting this picture of the two smiling fools. I am concerned that I will “toss my cookies” if I see it again.

  4. 83ragtop50

    Truth – I agree with virtually all that you have said and would only amplify the fact that many or all of the stated justifications for allocating EXTRA funding for some students and not others are subjective based on the bias of whomever makes the decisions about what those disadvantages are. What ever happen to equality? Extra money for some is nothing more than another form of welfare. Lee and Schwinn seem to really have a heart for taking from some and giving to others.

    I frankly see this as nothing more than a street corner shell game used to confuse and shut down any opposition to spending additional massive amounts of money on a very flawed and failed public school system.

    I do disagree with your statement: “Read my lips – The teacher’s union has no collective bargaining rights in the state of Tennessee. This effectively negates any power the unions and teachers had over the school system.” It would be imprudent to suggest that teachers have no power over the school systems. They are present daily and lobby for their opinion of what needs to be done on an ongoing basis. I do not fault them, but they are not lily white in this matter.

  5. SpenceRus

    This sounds about the same as what’s been done in every liberal-progressive state. Throw big money at the problem with no real oversight so the teachers unions and special interests can steal it. And very little gets to the kids.

  6. Truth

    The devil is in the details. One thing that is already abused that I can see is what they call a “disability.”

    There are *some* students who have an IEP or a 504 which are simply behavioral problems that the parents refuse to address. It is bs like, Johnny can’t sit still and has anxiety when he doesn’t have his smartphone in hand. I kid you not, this is a real thing. They label that as a disability. This gives Johnny the right to be a distraction to the teacher and the rest of the class and there isn’t a darn thing anyone can do about it.

    And before the usual shills come in and start making uninformed comments on teacher accountability or teacher’s unions.

    Read my lips – The teacher’s union has no collective bargaining rights in the state of Tennessee. This effectively negates any power the unions and teachers had over the school system.

    And as far as teacher accountability. Teachers are held accountable via test scores. Their pay increases are very much dependent on what their students make on the state test. And if an entire department falls below the line, the state comes down hard…really hard on central office management, which in turn comes down on the principals, which in turn comes down on those teachers. Not only does it affect pay raises but it could determine if you’re contract is renewed for the next school year.

    Yes bad teachers get all the press, all the YouTube clicks, etc, but the incompetency and toxicity you read about and see often is allowed by school administrators. Lazy principals and assistant principals are to blame for letting an underperforming or toxic teachers remain in the classroom.

    So think about all these factors the next time you want to throw out whatever talking point you heard on 99.7 or 1510.