Governor Lee signs student funding bill today

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 12:40 PM EDT|Updated: May. 2, 2022 at 3:55 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Education funding in Tennessee could be done differently now that the new formula has the governor’s signature.

On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee was at Franklin High School, his alma mater, to sign the new Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement bill into law. The bill was passed through the Senate last month and was approved by the House last week.

“This is a historic day for public education and not just a historic day for public education but a historical day for children in Tennessee,” Lee said.

The governor applauded Tennessee’s General Assembly for seeing the bill through.

“Today is a tremendous day for Tennessee students. After months of engagement with thousands of Tennesseans, our state will have a new, innovative K-12 funding formula that improves public education by putting kids first. I commend the General Assembly for their partnership and desire to move Tennessee public education to a new frontier.”

Watch Gov. Lee’s press conference

Gov. Bill Lee signed the legislation recently passed that changes the funding mechanism for K-12 education in Tennessee.

The governor was surrounded by several state leaders and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn when he signed the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) into law. The new formula would replace the outdated formula BEP.

This new student-based funding formula is expected to make it easier to understand how dollars going to each student is calculated. The new funding formula said student funding starts with a base funding of $6,860. Depending on what a student’s needs are, more money will be allocated for the student.

“Districts are not a one size fits all, and neither are students, and the funding formula takes that into account,” Lee said.

That is what the governor and state leader say is one of the most significant differences with TISA.

“Families can actually see the amount of dollars that are going to be committed to their individual children and the public School they choose to go to,” Lee said.

The governor also said the formula brings a fix to the way the state does teacher pay raises.

“Before, there was a bureaucratic workaround that general assembly would put money in for teacher pay raises, but it didn’t always go directly to teachers,” Lee said. “This funding formula makes sure that teachers get pay raises that they have so well deserved.”

Schwinn said the next steps include rule-making and professional development.

“So what you can expect to see is that a pretty significant rulemaking over the next three months includes four different opportunities for stakeholder engagement,” Schwinn said.

She added the first group of rules has to do with implementation; what data is collected, and in what format.

“The second group of rules is about the program. The first is ULN’s; unique learning needs,” Schwinn said. “We want to make sure we code that in a way where districts understand exactly what they would code where for the students to generate that funding.”

News 4′s Tosin Fakile asked if schools know how much they’ll be generating with the new formula

“They will start to get their predictions pretty early next year because unlike the BEP we can do that at any given time because it is based on the students who are enrolled,” Schwinn said. “So next year is really going to be about understanding here’s how much funding your system and school will generate and here are strategies to invest those dollars that will maximize student achievement,” she added.

The governor and Schwinn said they don’t expect tweaks to the funding formula next year.

“I think it’s a well-thought-out piece of legislation. There was a lot of work done in committee,” Lee said. “I don’t expect there to be issues, if there were, we certainly will find that out. I don’t anticipate there to be real issues because of the lengthy process that we went through to get it to the form that it’s in today.”

Schwinn said they feel good about the passage of legislation.

“I’m thrilled about a billion new dollars for public schools and the students we serve,” Schwinn said. “And then next year is really an opportunity as with every year for the general assembly to come together and make decisions about public education.”

The education commissioner said the Department of education this week is mapping out essential dates, deliverables, and timelines between now and the first day of the 2023-24 school year.

This new funding formula goes into effect for the school year 2023-24.

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