House and Senate Finance Committees Adopt Governor Lee’s New Education Plan

Governor Bill Lee’s new education funding plan nears completion finish line after clearing the House and Senate Finance Committees on Tuesday.

The new plan, called Tennessee Investment in Student Achievementwould replace the current funding formula called the Basic Education Program.

The new formula provides a base allocation of $6,860 per student but also allocates additional funds, or weightsfor students from specific populations, such as English language learners or students living in poverty.

Overall, the new plan adds about $1 billion to education in the state, bringing total statewide funding to about $9 billion.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said he supports the new plan because it simplifies the overly complicated BEP formula.

Most schools will receive additional funding under the plan. But one of the challenges the Lee administration has faced has been figuring out how much local districts will get and how much local governments should contribute.

For example, an analysis by The Tennessean found that by changing the way money is dividednearly two-thirds of school districts, although receiving more in real dollars, receive a lower percentage of public funds than the previous formula.

This is due to the way the state has created the new formula and the way it takes into account the contribution that local authorities can make on their own.

One of the hardest-hit districts is Nashville, as it received about $1 of every $17 the state spent on education under the old formula. But under the new equation, that number drops to $1 over $19.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said he’s less concerned about where the money is going and more about how the formula doesn’t significantly change the funding gap between Tennessee students and students from other states.

Yarbro and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, were the only two Senate finance members to vote against the legislation in committee. He passed the committee 9-2.

The bill passed without a roll call vote in the House Finance Committee, but several Democrats opposed the legislation.

The legislation is expected to be voted on in the House and Senate later this week.

Adam Friedman is the political and government reporter for the state of Tennessean. Contact him by email at [email protected]

Meghan Mangrum covers education for the USA TODAY Network – Tennessee. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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