School Funding

Tennesseans seek rule change for new school funding formula

  • The Tennessee Department of Education held a public hearing on its rules for the new funding formula, TISA.
  • Commenters called for explicit and transparent reporting for the data that determines funding.
  • Some have included an initial criticism that the student-based formula is compatible with vouchers.
  • The rules will be heard by the State Board of Education in mid-August.

As Tennessee’s Investing in Student Success Act reaches its final stages of becoming the new funding model for public schools, public commentators on Thursday called on the Tennessee Department of Education to be explicit and transparent. about the data collection and reporting requirements it will use to provide funding to the school. districts.

Commentators have also asked what they say are more appropriate measures to provide funding for students learning English than what is currently set out in the proposed rules.

About 20 people spoke in person or virtually about the TISA rules, which provide specific definitions and a roadmap for how the legislation will practically allocate funds to students and districts.

Initial criticism of the TISA legislation has also been covered up, saying the student-based formula is a way to siphon off public education funds, perhaps more prescient now as state officials rush to put implemented a controversial school voucher program.

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President Carter Barnett pointed to a recommendation from the Tennessee Alliance for Equity in Education that the data informing the formula be “reported publicly in an annual comparative, transparent, and interactive form.”

Others reiterated calls for the formula, which has already been passed by the legislature, to offer higher funds to public school teachers, whose jobs have come under formal and informal criticism in the wake of the comments. disparaging comments from Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn about teachers. in an appearance with Governor Lee.

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Still others called for the rules determining results-based funding to include growth scores more than markers of success.

The Ministry of Education released its proposed rules for the new state funding formula on June 6. This ensuing rule-making process is the next step in the enactment of the new law, which was pushed around in this year’s legislative session by Governor Bill Lee.

The rules set out several elements of the legislation and will enable its implementation in the 2023-24 school year. The old formula called the Basic Education Program (BEP) has been in place for 30 years.

What did the speakers ask?

Tennessee Representative John Ray Clemmons D-Nashville and Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley Jr., gubernatorial candidate, were among the public commentators, which also included speakers from Tennessee education groups as well as members of the community, some headteachers and some district councils. members.

Clemons, who took part in a demonstration outside the hearingcalled the funding formula “the most dangerous (education) law” because, he said, creating a pathway for funds to follow students leaving public education and being based on “two false narratives” of increased public funds towards public education and significantly different from the BEP.

Nashvillians in particular have drawn attention to the part of the rules that says the department “may provide cost incremental factor (CDF) grants” to school districts where the cost of living is higher than average in Tennessee.

Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner Penny Schwinn introduce the school funding formula called Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement to the Tennessee State Capitol during a press conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

Lyn Hoyt, a member of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, or NOAH, said such consideration is important for community building, allowing teachers to afford to live where they work.

“With inflation on the rise, attention to the right CDF is of great importance,” Hoyt said. “…We want teachers to be able to afford to live in the communities they serve.”

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Proposed rules establish definitions for students who are eligible for additional weightings, or funding, in the new student-centered funding formula, including students deemed economically disadvantaged or with unique learning needs .

Included are students learning English, and the proposed rules would calculate funding needs based on grade level. At least three commenters called for the rules to instead use assessments to calculate these students’ funding needs.

“English learners come into our schools at all levels and their skill level is what determines their educational needs, not their grade level,” said Breanna Sommers of Ed Trust, who also claimed that a few other states with TISA-type funding formulas calculated these needs. according to school levels.

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The rules also define which school districts can be considered fast-growing and therefore eligible for infrastructure allocations, or which districts are considered “sparse”.

Students with “characteristics of dyslexia” are one of ten subgroups of students with unique learning needs who are eligible to earn additional funding from their district in addition to the $6,860 per student funding provided in the new plan.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn interacts with children at Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary School on Monday, June 13, 2022.

Some commentators spoke extensively about students with disabilities on Thursday, but early critics of the proposed rules said the definition is confusing.

The State Board of Education will pass an emergency rule relating to the definition of dyslexia on August 11, when it also considers the TISA rules as a whole.

What happens next?

The proposed rules will be presented to the National Board of Education at a special meeting convened on August 11.

The board will vote with a positive, negative or neutral recommendation on the rules, but a positive vote is not necessary for the rules to take effect, according to the legislation.

During this meeting, the board will vote on an emergency rule related to the implementation of the dyslexia-related portions of the TISA rules. The board will also hear a first reading of the permanent version of this rule, as well as permanent versions of the TISA-related rules regarding students with disabilities and English language learners, and how TISA funds are allocated to charter schools.

At the end of the hearing Thursday, department officials said that after reviewing and incorporating public comments, the rules would be sent to the attorney general’s office for approval.

At that time, the rules will be published, along with the recommendation of the State Board of Education, by the Secretary of State for 90 days and then submitted to the Joint Government Operations Committee for the Tennessee House and the Senate.

Consult the proposed rules online at

Public comments are still accepted until August 2. They can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to the address below:

Tennessee Department of Education, Andrew Johnson Tower, 9th Floor,

710 James Robertson Pkwy, Nashville, TN 37243


Laura Testino covers education and childhood issues for the trade appeal. Contact her at [email protected] or 901-512-3763. Find her on Twitter: @LDTestino