Bredesen Unveils Education Funding Plan - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Bredesen Unveils Education Funding Plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Gov. Phil Bredesen arrived at the State Capitol Thursday morning to present a new school funding plan. Bredesen began by telling lawmakers "now is the time to seize moment."

"This chamber is full of people like me, people who have connections to people of the 50's and 60's where that factory job worked," said Bredesen. But he said that time has passed.

The address took place at a joint session of the 105th General Assembly in the State House Chambers.

The plan will change how annual funding is allocated to Tennessee schools. The governor said he wants to improve and simplify the state's funding formula for K-12 schools. This new plan could add millions of dollars to local schools.

The formula will change, and if approved, Bredesen hopes to increase school spending to $475 million. This includes the money already added to teach at risk students and growing enrollment. The plan benefits students in smaller school districts and non-English speaking children.

In an effort to make school funding more fair, a new formula will be drafted. It will base funding on property values and the amount sales tax in each school district.

Bredesen's new plan will also increase teacher's base salary from less than $37,000 to $40,000 a year, change the way communities pay for schools, and increase the state's share of instructional programs from 65 to 75 percent.

But he said the reform plan is a two-way street. He said the new reform plan would make sure educators have the money they need to educate Tennessee children, but on the other hand, the educators have to be accountable.

The governor said he wants the money to fund the plan to come from a portion of the cigarette tax hike he's proposed and extra tax revenues the state is expecting next year. The extra revenue is projected to produce between $100 million and $300 million.

Bredesen's plan would be phased in over several years. It's still unknown how much extra money each district could receive.

Bredesen also added Tennessee needs to hold the colleges of education in Tennessee more accountable for producing good teachers. He said they need to be formatted more like a medical school or a law school. Furthermore, he said the state should take advantage of the laws in place to take over schools that are failing by handing them over to a University, changing them into a charter school, removing school board members, or shutting them down all together.

Bredesen briefed lawmakers about proposed changes to the Basic Education Program on Tuesday.

"We're hoping that we will be recognized in an urban core city such as Nashville, for it costs more to educate our young people, to educate our students," said Rep. Janis Sontany, D-Nashville, "because we are in an urban core, because our population is different from rural counties."

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