Gov. Lee looking to revamp how Tennessee schools are funded

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Posted at 12:35 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 13:35:57-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Lee is looking to revamp how schools across the state are funded. His office said the basic education program, the state's current school funding framework, hasn't been meaningfully updated in 30 years.

Jennifer Hill with the Nashville Public Education Foundation spoke on Openline about the topic. She said it is a fairly complex formula and it has about 46 pieces to calculate funding for each school system and counties.

Hill mentioned it is one of the most complicated in the country and it is one of the least transparent in order to see how funding is impacting students. She said it uses best case scenarios to generate funding.

The governor and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn are wanting Tennesseans to participate in the review and see the possibilities of making it more of a 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,” Governor lee said in a statement.

People from leaders of districts, down to families, will be a part of the public engagement according to the Governor's office. The engagement will focus on a student investment strategy. This includes things like putting the students over the system, incentivizing student outcomes and empowering parents to be part of their kid's education.

"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,” Schwinn said in a statement.

Hill said the state does not factor in individual student needs. She mentioned wanting to see more money allocated.

"Tennessee ranks in the bottom five states for percent of GDP that is allocated to K-12 education, and we'd really like to see that increased. Right now we're at about 2.6% of GDP where the national average is more around 3.4%," Hill said.

Opening up this conversation is nothing new for a governor. Hill commended Lee and Schwinn for taking this step.