Tennessee Should Collect, Connect Data on Court Fines and Fees Statewide: Report

Tennessee Supreme Court building

As Tennessee lawmakers continue to examine reforms in the criminal justice system, two recently released reports showed that the state is not collecting the proper data to evaluate the fines and fees collected from its court system.

Non-profit policy think tank Think Tennessee found that, despite a 2019 law requiring all courts to create a payment plan system for those who financially will have issues paying court fees, the law has been implemented inconsistently throughout the state.

“For Tennesseans who face an endless cycle of penalties due to an inability to pay court debt, the county where they live could determine whether they have access to a payment plan that could help them break free,” Think Tennessee wrote. “Moreover, court fines and fees have a disproportionate impact on people who are low-income, Black and/or rural, and the financial hardship they experience may lead to increased recidivism with more significant impacts for communities as a whole.

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K-12 Education Funding Has Doubled in Tennessee Since 1992

K-12 education is the top expenditure in Tennessee’s budget and has more than doubled, adjusted for inflation, since the current school funding plan began in 1992, a Sycamore Institute report shows.

Tennessee’s education funding model, called the Basic Education Program (BEP), is used to disperse state funds to individual school districts. Tennessee spent $5.2 billion on K-12 education in fiscal year 2020, while TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program and second-highest expense, cost the state $3.6 billion.

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