Gov. Bill Lee’s new education funding plan is approaching the finish line after clearing finance committees in the House and Senate Tuesday.
The new plan, called Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement, would replace the current funding formula called the Basic Education Program.
The new formula provides a base allocation of $6,860 per pupil but also allocates additional funding, or weights, for 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, increasing the total statewide funding to around $9 billion.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said he supported the new plan because it simplified 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 questions are about the share local districts will receive and how much local governments must contribute.
For instance, an analysis by The Tennessean found by changing the way money is divided, nearly two-thirds of school districts, although receiving more in actual dollars, are receiving a lower percentage of state funds than under the previous formula.
This is because of how the state created the new formula and the way it factors how much local governments can contribute on their own.
One of the most impacted districts is Nashville because it received roughly $1 out of $17 the state put towards education under the old formula. But under the new equation, that number drops to $1 out of $19.
Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said he was less concerned with how the money was divided up and more with 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 members of the Senate finance to vote against the legislation in committee. It 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 Tennessean’s state government and politics reporter. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meghan Mangrum covers education for the USA TODAY Network — Tennessee. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.
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