Gov. Lee proposes $1B boost for Tennessee public schools

Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 11:48 PM EST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee proposed a huge boost in education funding during his State of the State address Monday night.

Lee called his plan for public education in Tennessee “bold.”

It includes funding for career and technical training, research, and teacher pay raises.

Democrats say it’s not enough money and fear it won’t reach as many students as it claims. Education reform stole the show Monday during Lee’s State of the State address.

He’s proposing a $1 billion update to k-12 funding.

“It prioritizes the needs of students above all else and it pays particular attention to students with disabilities, to low-income students, to rural students with other priority needs,” said Lee.

The governor also says it will reward districts based on performance.

If passed, it wouldn’t kick in until 2024, but Democrats say they’re not clear on how it would work or how the state plans to pay for it.

“He does not have a plan from where that money is going to come from or how it’s going to happen, so we want to make sure that in this formula, everyone is accounted for,” said Representative Vincent Dixie, Tennessee House Democratic chairman.

The governor also wants to spend $750 million on moving schools off of flood plains and improving career and techno training education. Nearly $125 million will go toward a raise for teachers.

Democrats say that’s not enough.

“Is that meaningful enough to keep high-performing teachers in their job just so they can go make just as much being the manager of a retail shop? So, I think that $750 could have been doubled or tripled in order to have some meaningful effect,” said Dixie.

Turning toward higher education, Lee is looking to pour about $50 million into the University of Memphis for research funding. His proposed $52.6 billion budget must be approved by the general assembly.

“The state of our state is strong and I look forward to working with you to make it stronger yet,” said Lee.

Lee says his k-12 education plan will be finalized in the coming days. He also says this new budget is balanced and won’t cost Tennesseeans any taxes.

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