Lee unveils details of school funding overhaul

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State Address on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig)

Gov. Bill Lee is unveiling his proposal to overhaul the state’s school funding formula.

Here’s the release from the Education Department:

Nashville, TN –  Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn released the details of the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act (SB2396/HB2143) that would transition Tennessee’s K-12 public schools to a student-based funding approach. Starting in the 2023-24 school year, the TISA would invest an estimated $9 billion in education funding for the state, including state and local funds, which includes $1 billion in new recurring state funds and $750 million in one-time state funds this year.

The TISA will update the way Tennessee funds public education for the first time in over 30 years to empower each student to read proficiently by third grade, prepare each high school graduate for postsecondary success, and provide resources needed to all students to ensure they succeed. Under the TISA districts would receive more than they would under the BEP should enrollment remain stable. Access an overview PowerPoint presentation of the TISA and associated bill language here. To learn more about the student-based funding formula, visit FundingforStudentSuccess.org.

“The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement formula will be a powerful tool the state can use to ensure we are putting all students on a path to success,” said Governor Bill Lee. “By serving our students well and giving the public greater insight into how their tax dollars are supporting students, the TISA represents an exciting opportunity to improve educational outcomes, strengthen our workforce and propel Tennessee forward.”

“Updating our public education funding model is an investment in our state’s students and our state’s future,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Months of public feedback highlighted how committed Tennesseans are to strengthening how we fund public education, and the TISA puts the focus of education funding right where it belongs – on students.”

The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement is a student-based funding formula that will include the following proposed investments for each of these components: 

— $6.6 billion for base funding for every public school student.

— $1.8 billion in additional funding to be allocated based on weights to address specific student needs.

— $376 million in direct funding for students to receive additional funding allocations to support specific programs, like tutoring.

— $100 million in outcomes funding to be awarded based on achievement to empower schools to help all students reach their full potential.

Additionally, the TISA has reporting and district accountability requirements, including an annual TISA report delivered to the Tennessee General Assembly by the department and individual district-level accountability reports to be submitted by local school boards to the department to establish goals for student achievement in the current school year, explain how the goals can be met within the local budget, and describe how the local budget and expenditures for prior school years enabled districts to progress student outcomes.