Even with increases, some say education budget is not large enough

legislative plaza
Posted at 9:34 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 22:38:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The state's budget is in its final week and Tennessee lawmakers are working on one of the largest items - education.

It has invited controversy at all levels, everything from curriculum to funding. Some say the state has been under-funding schools for years and it’s finally catching up with us.

"They have a mandate that we have to have a certain student to teacher ratio, but the number of teachers that they fund doesn't get us to that ratio. So, we end up funding some teachers completely out of pocket," said Dave Rosenberg, a Metro Nashville Councilman.

He's passionate about the issue of school funding because he says there's just not enough.

"We're 46th in the country in school funding and that has downstream impacts. That affects us as a society. It also affects taxpayers because for the average family of four in Tennessee, you're paying an extra $1,000 in local property taxes because the state is under funding," said Rosenberg.

This year's budget is close to completion. The total amount of funding for education is $7.34 billion, not including a $250 million one-time investment in a mental health trust fund.

Governor Bill Lee has proposed teacher pay increases and hundreds of millions in total to benefit education in his budget.

Even though state republicans say the Basic Education Program(BEP), the formula the state uses to decide how much money each district should get, is reasonable. Others at the capitol said that formula means schools aren't getting enough money.

"An increase between $900 million to about $1.8 billion is probably what it takes on an annual basis on top of what we have right now," said Nashville Democrat Senator Jeff Yarbro. "That's not to get better. That's not to blow reading off the charts. It's not to improve our college-going rates and school readiness."

Sen. Yarbro said a large investment won't get the state where it needs to be, but it's a start.