by Jon Styf
Tennessee ranked 10th for education freedom in a new report card from the Heritage Foundation.
The report card took into account how states support education choice, regulatory freedom, academic transparency and return on investment for spending.
Tennessee ranked fourth on its spending return as it ranks 43rd in spending at a cost-of-living adjusted $12,241 per pupil. The state ranked 28th in its combined fourth-grade and eighth-grade math and reading average scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress exams.
The state’s unfunded teacher pension liability is just 1.2% of the Tennessee’s gross domestic product.
“Tennessee can improve on its strong ROI ranking by improving academic outcomes on the NAEP and limiting growth in non-teaching staff,” the report said.
Florida, Arizona and Idaho ranked atop the Heritage Foundation leaderboard while New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia were the bottom three.
“As record numbers of parents flip school boards and stand up to woke teachers’ unions, it is clear the parental rights and school choice movement is not slowing down,” said Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America. “Heritage Action looks forward to continuing our state and federal lobbying efforts to promote education freedom across the country and give all our students and families the best opportunities possible.”
Tennessee ranked 11th in regulatory freedom, 12th in school choice and 25th in transparency.
Tennessee is currently transitioning to a new K-12 school funding formula for next school year, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement.
TISA will create a base per-student funding amount of $6,860 and add weights based on a students’ learning needs, whether the student lives in a low-income household or area or if the student lives in a rural area.
It will change how the state calculates public school funding from a district-based model that pays for each district to have levels of staffing based on enrollment to a system that will fund per student based on a student’s details.
“Tennessee could improve its ranking by expanding eligibility for, and boosting participation in, its private-school-choice program, and eliminating unnecessary regulations on participating private schools, including the state test mandate,” the report said. “Tennessee could also improve its ranking by making it easier for more charter schools to open and operate, and by giving families more choices among traditional public schools.”
Heritage said that, while lawmakers have banned certain concepts like critical race theory, those rules “do not address the application of critical race theory to school activities and may allow educators to apply racially prejudiced concepts to school activities and classroom content by renaming the material and purposely not calling it ‘critical race theory.'”
Tennessee does not have full reciprocity on teacher licensure with other states, 22% of school districts in the state with more than 15,000 students employ a chief diversity officer and 28% of the teachers in the state came to the classroom through alternative teacher certification routes, according to the report.
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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.
Photo “Knox County Schools” by Knox County Schools.