NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Lee’s signature education achievement is one step closer to becoming law. The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement passed the Senate and the House Thursday.
The bill would change the way school districts are funded.
Supporters of the bill say the new funding formula will be student-centered. Opponents say it’s one step closer to privatizing public education.
“I’m excited and I’m convinced that this is a good formula to follow because it funds according to student needs,” said Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis).
Republicans are backing the funding formula that would allocate money with a combination of a base and weights to determine how much a single student could have attached to them to go to any public school.
“You don’t teach a class, you teach individual students because they all become very unique to you,” White said.
It’s a shift from the 30-year-old Basic Education Program funding formula. Roy Herring, a former state legislator now lobbyist, says Lee’s administration got what they wanted—but questions still remain.
“I think the administration is going to achieve primarily what they’re looking for in this, I think the big concern in a time at which we’re putting a billion dollars into education, how much of it goes into bureaucracy, how much of it goes out into private schools and private hands,” Herring said.
Democrats, who are displeased with the lack of debate on the House floor on the bill, say the legislation is incomplete
“They don’t understand what this is going to do to rural counties and that’s why we want them to slow the roll on this. We don’t have to kill it, but let’s just use some money it’s in the budget already—use that to fully fund the BEP going into the next year and spend a year with teachers at the table and superintendents at the table and principals at the table and let’s get this right,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville).
The new funding will not take effect until a couple of years down the road.
The Department of Education would also be responsible for rulemaking to complete the bill’s objectives.