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.”
Thousands of TN parents, students, teachers & administrators have contributed to our new student-centered funding formula, & we invite them to join as we introduce the plan in detail tomorrow, February 24, at 11 a.m. CThttps://t.co/Iw4PVZedt8
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) February 23, 2022
Lee explained the current Basic Education Program [BEP] formula is “cumbersome and outdated”: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]