Gov. Lee Calls for Review of State Education Funding Formula

Friday, October 08, 2021 | 09:07am


 Tennesseans invited to provide input, ideas  

Nashville, TN - Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn invited Tennesseans to participate in the full review of the state’s education funding formula and explore possibilities for a more student-centered approach. 

“We will pursue a rigorous review of our state’s education funding to ensure we are properly investing in students and stewarding our resources well,” said Gov. Lee. “I invite every Tennessee parent to tell us about their current experiences as well as their hopes for the education, environment and experience in our K-12 public schools.”

The state’s current school funding framework, also known as the Basic Education Program (BEP), has not been meaningfully updated in more than 30 years.

“Tennessee’s students are the future of our state, and we've got to be sure our public schools are well-equipped to prepare each and every one of them for lifelong success," said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. "Consistent with our focus to continuously improve the academic achievement of all Tennessee students, we are excited to open public conversations and discuss an investment strategy that aligns with those goals and values.”

District and school leaders, elected officials, families, education stakeholders and members of the public will be engaged in the coming months through committees, survey opportunities, local meetings and more. Public engagement will focus on a student investment strategy that incorporates the following:

  • Prioritizes students over systems
  • Empowers parents to engage in their child’s education
  • Incentivizes student outcomes
  • Ensures all students, regardless of location or learning needs, are served at a high-level
  • Reflects Tennesseans’ values
  • Creates flexible funding that prepare students for postsecondary success

“How we fund education is one of the most important conversations that we can have as a state,” said House Education Administration Committee Chairman Mark White. “Today's announcement and the engagement opportunities to follow will better equip leaders at all levels as we ensure that school funding works to serve all students. I am excited for the opportunity to work alongside my colleagues in the General Assembly, the administration, local officials, educators, and parents on this important topic.”

“Opening up the opportunity for conversations to look at funding for education in Tennessee is vital to continued growth of not only the academic but also nonacademic needs of students across the state,” said Dr. Joey Vaughn, Director of Schools, Manchester City Schools. “Tennessee has been a leader in education and focusing on strategic investments for our kids and their futures is essential to continue the great work in our district and statewide.”

"The education landscape is constantly evolving, as well as the different challenges educators face in providing quality instruction to students,” said Dr. Jared Bigham, Senior Advisor on Workforce & Rural Initiatives, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “It's critical that our investment in K-12 education supports the best individual student experience possible and prepares students for success upon graduation.  Our state's continued success in the future depends on our good stewardship of resources today."

“With Tennessean's commitment to becoming one of the strongest states in the nation for education, it is timely for us to examine this ambitious and worthwhile goal to invest in our students and our state,” said Dr. Cathy Beck, Director of Schools, Cheatham County Schools. “The state needs a funding strategy reflective of the needs of all our students, educators and communities, and we are thrilled to be part of these robust conversations.”

“As the chief funding mechanism for our public schools, the BEP formula is an essential part of our education system. I am glad that through this listening tour and working groups, we will be able to receive feedback from various stakeholders across the state on ways to potentially enhance public education funding. Any future improvements will focus on our students to find innovative solutions for better student outcomes,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey. “I applaud this effort to bring greater clarity to this widely misunderstood and complicated system. I look forward to working with the Tennessee Department of Education, educators, parents and local leaders throughout this process to ensure our education system offers a top-quality education to all Tennessee students.”

“I am supportive of the call from Governor Lee to convene a special exploratory committee to dig deep into the steps necessary to rewrite the Basic Education Program formula,” said Dr. Russell Dyer, Director of Schools, Cleveland City Schools. “The current BEP has served Tennessee educators, families, and students for a number of years.  However, now is the time to actually move past the rhetoric, sharpen our pencils, and make real changes that will benefit Tennesseans for years to come.  I feel confident that together we can and will make this take place and I look forward to working with Governor Lee, Commissioner Schwinn, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Superintendents and others to make this happen.”

“The timing is right in Tennessee to take a comprehensive look at the way we fund K-12 education,” said Teresa Sloyan, President, Hyde Family Foundation. “A funding formula that better supports the diverse needs of individual students could have an important impact in accelerating academic outcomes.  We support Governor Lee, Commissioner Schwinn and state policymakers in advancing this important conversation.”   

“The BEP as it exists was formulated many, many years ago. Since that time, the needs of our state and its schools have changed drastically,” said Dr. Shawn Kimble, Director of Schools, Lauderdale County Schools. “I appreciate Governor Lee’s efforts in working to find a more equitable and adequate funding formula. This is important work that is needed for meeting the many needs of our students, our employees, and our communities.”

“Tennessee students deserve better than a nearly three-decades-old education funding formula. We applaud today’s announcement and view this action as an appropriate step in elevating the conversation around public school funding,” said Adam Lister, CEO, Tennesseans for Student Success. “As this process advances, Tennesseans for Student Success looks forward to challenging those involved to prioritize solutions that serve all of Tennessee students.”

“The needs of our students are much different today than they were fifteen years ago as are the expectations and responsibilities placed on Tennessee's educators,” said Dr. Ted Horrell, Director of Schools, Lakeland School System. “A thorough reexamination of our state's K-12 funding formula is both necessary and welcome as we strive to provide the best possible education to Tennessee's students.”

“I am looking forward to hearing from our local districts in regards to Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s important announcement on school funding,” said House Education Instruction Committee Chairlady Debra Moody. “Since our districts are so unique their collective input is vital to begin the conversation.”  

“With last week’s announcement of Blue Oval City, Governor Lee and Commissioner Schwinn’s call for an exploratory committee on education funding comes at a critical time for our community, region, and state,” said Joey Hassell, Director of Schools, Haywood County Schools. “School districts play a key role in community development, economic development, and workforce development.” 

“While Tennessee continues to place the highest priority on quality education for our state's children, the time is definitely overdue to examine our current method of K-12 educational funding,” said Dr. Nancy Dishner, President and CEO, Niswonger Foundation. “Our decades-old method includes a number of issues that are causing unnecessary difficulty for school district leadership. Educational needs and opportunities have changed since the last major reform. We need to make certain that funding is equitable and adequate for all demographic areas of our state. It is time to listen to those concerns and seek the solutions that ensure the best quality education for Tennessee's children and our future.”

“We are excited to engage in conversations about the state’s funding formula and the important work around providing additional needed supports for students in Tennessee,” said Kristy Brown, Director of Schools, Jackson County Schools. “This is a great opportunity for districts large and small.”

“In order to advance student learning, Tennessee needs a modernized school finance system that reflects the education needs of today,” said David Mansouri, President and CEO, State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). “This prioritization from Governor Lee and state leaders comes at the right time as we all help students and schools urgently recover from the disruption of the pandemic.  We should consider the individual needs of Tennessee students and work towards a way of funding education that is more transparent and better supports those unique needs.”  

"The pandemic and extended school closures have had a massive impact on students, particularly on the economically disadvantaged and Black and brown students who were already most at risk of falling behind academically. We need a bold approach for the future, and we can't pay for that approach with an outdated funding system that prioritizes where a child lives over who a child aspires to be,” said Victor Evans, Executive Director, TennesseeCAN. “So we applaud Governor Lee, Commissioner Schwinn, and our legislative leaders for their leadership at this critical time to explore ways to adjust and modernize school funding for the future and to help quickly close the learning gaps that too many of our students now face." 

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