Tennessee’s decades-old and frequently maligned education funding formula, the Basic Education Program, may be in for some changes.
Gov. Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn called for a review of the formula last week, noting that it has not been meaningfully updated in 30 years.
Originally implemented in 1992, the program is a funding mechanism for K-12 schools with two parts: a state share and a required local match. According to the state comptroller’s office, those shares are based on each county’s ability to pay for education, meaning counties with more tax revenue receive less state funding.
There are 45 different components to the formula, all of which are driven at least in part by student enrollment. If there are more students in a district, that generally means it will receive more money.
Some of the mechanisms employed by the formula are vague, and school districts often have trouble determining exactly how much funding they will receive until student populations are finalized.
A more simplified way to pay for education would be helpful, but some public school administrators in the state are worried changes could mean funding losses.
A pet project for some state officials has been implementing a school voucher program that some worry could funnel money away from public schools and toward private schools.
Lawmakers and other officials will tackle the formula in the coming year, and may have actionable legislation to change it in 2023.
So, there’s time left, but we wanted to get the ball rolling by asking our readers. How should we fund education? What changes to the BEP formula should be made? Should districts’ ability to pay and student populations be considerations? Should they be major considerations?
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