After months of strong engagement and conversations about public education funding in Tennessee and years of consistent feedback, today the Tennessee Department of Education released an initial draft overview of a potential student-based funding formula, informed by input of thousands of Tennesseans– parents, educators, superintendents, elected officials, business and community leaders, and citizens from across the state– and is encouraging all Tennesseans to send feedback on this draft framework by an extended deadline of Tuesday, January 18th at noon CT. Comment should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I want to personally thank the Tennessee parents, teachers, students and citizens who have engaged in this important discussion about our state’s education funding, and to encourage all Tennesseans who want to get involved to send their public comments on this latest draft,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “As we plan for the future of Tennessee, this process will continue to ensure we’re listening to the people of the state and improving how we invest resources to set our students up for success.”
As part of a robust public review and engagement process, Tennesseans from around the state have submitted public comment that is being shared with 18 subcommittees to help inform potential recommendations for a new funding formula. Any proposed new funding formula would prioritize strategic investments in students, transparent reporting and accountability, and student-centered decisions.
“People know what they want for public school funding, and we are thrilled so many Tennesseans have participated in this process and see what this will mean for students,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We know this cannot just be about a funding formula in isolation, but about what funding can do to accelerate achievement for our students, ensure they have access to a high-quality education, and set them up for success after high school.”
The draft framework for a new student-based funding formula would include funding for all services and supports for K-12 public schools that are currently funded in the existing formula. The draft framework, available here for public review and comment, also reflects the following feedback from stakeholders:
- Base: Educator salaries, RTI2 support, Counselors and school-based supports, District-specific needs, Technology, Nurses, Coordinated School Health
- Weights: Poverty and Concentrated Poverty, Rural, Unique Learning Needs (special education English learner, gifted, dyslexia), and Charter Schools
- Direct Funding: Fast Growing Districts, Tutoring for 4th Grade, Career and Technical Education (CTE)
- Outcomes: Literacy, ReadyGrad Indicators with Outcomes, CTE Completers, WBL and Apprenticeships, JROTC, FAFSA Completion
Tennesseans are encouraged to submit public comment on the components of this draft by the deadline for public comment, which is Tuesday, January 18th at noon CT.
In late December, Commissioner Schwinn gave an update to Gov. Bill Lee on the public school funding engagement process and discussed next steps moving forward. Watch the recording here.
Hundreds of public comments have been submitted from citizens throughout Tennessee. Common themes include:
“College & career experiences and culture beginning in K. Create a culture where post secondary ed is the norm, present college and technical education with equality, and expose students to what jobs exist, but also the possibilities of jobs to be created!” – Nicole Carney (@mrsncarney), Twitter Town Hall Participant
“Right now, it’s my belief that we need more money into our career technical programs. That’ll be our need for a few years and it may change to something else down the road–but we need to have that flexibility as you design this program, to do what we need to do.” – Mark Farley, Gainesboro Town Hall Attendee
“Students need earlier intervention for reading disabilities and intervention for all that struggle with disabilities. Currently, smart kids with reading disabilities do not receive help if they manage to stay above their schools RTI dividing line. These students deserve to reach their full potential. Targeted intervention should be available for all disabled readers. Reading intervention needs to happen early, Kindergarten. Schools need more and better trained reading interventionists, not unskilled teaching assistants.” – Alison Turner, Emailed Public Comment
“Fund programming and additional professionals sufficient to meet the needs of low-income students, English learners, students with disabilities, and students that are performing below grade level.” – Jerry Park, Emailed Public Comment
“In order to strengthen our students and to benefit them in the future, I feel there are several places additional funding should be given. School Counselors; in larger schools, counselors can either hold class or meet with students in need.” – Jennifer Taggart, Emailed Public Comment
“I feel like we need to have ways to help our teachers such as better pay for our teachers so we can keep good teachers, better retirement. More principles to help with the kids, more nurses, smaller classes with more teachers, more counselors, pay increase yearly with cost of living going up every year. This is just a few of the many ways we can help our schools and community.” – Sue Anderson, Emailed Public Comment
After Gov. Bill Lee announced in October that the state would review its public school funding formula, hundreds of Tennesseans indicated they would be interested in supporting the work of the 18 school funding subcommittees tasked with making recommendations to a steering committee of legislative leaders for a new student-based funding formula in Tennessee. The department hosted eight public town halls and local match meetings across the state, and created an additional engagement opportunity for Tennesseans to participate in the process and has developed a simple form for School Funding Ambassadors to use to collect public comments from community members. Additionally, members of the Tennessee General Assembly are hosting events across the state. Additional information can be found here.
All subcommittee meeting recordings are available online. Subcommittees will finalize formula recommendations in the coming weeks, which will be provided to Governor Lee for consideration.