Gov. Lee, Commissioner Schwinn detail plan for new school funding formula

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Posted at 7:54 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 20:54:59-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Details about how schools could be funded through Gov. Bill Lee's new state education funding program were released Thursday morning to the public.

The formula is meant to replace the 30-year-old funding formula currently in place in Tennessee.

For months Gov. Lee has promised a drastically different plan that would address the specific needs of children.

"The BEP doesn't deserve a billion-dollar investment but our students do deserve a billion-dollar increase in public education funding," said Lee in a press conference at the state capitol. "They do deserve that ensures our third graders can read."

Base funding for every student starts at $6,860 under the new plan. There are multiple factors which would increase the amount a student receives based on their circumstances.

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For example, if a student has dyslexia they would be allotted a percentage increase for their district.

Other factors include whether a student is economically disadvantaged or in communities with not a lot of people.

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Tennessee's Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn explained why certain populations were chosen for increases.

"As an example, a student who earns a tier 2 credential generates an additional $1,000," said Schwinn. "A student who is economically disadvantaged might generate an additional $2,000. Because it accounts for some of the additional challenges that might be in place for a student who has additional needs."

The plan will go to the state legislature as a bill. They'll have the chance to look at it and potentially make changes.

However, some are skeptical there's enough time left in the legislative session.

"Unless we're going to be here through the summer, I don't know you could possibly do all the work that it takes to adequately vet something of this magnitude that will have this much repercussion for the entirety of the state," said Nashville Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro. "If you're going to do something this big you've got to get it right."

Sen. Yarbro went on to say the decision was especially important since it's likely this formula would also last for decades.

Gov. Lee seemed to think passing the bill this year was possible, though. He said lawmakers already knew the basics of what the idea entailed and have been presented the plan earlier than the public.

If the plan is passed, it should go into effect in 2024.