Huffman Chairs Pie-Slicing Task Force

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is chairing Governor Haslam’s Task Force on the Basic Education Plan.  Haslam appointed the task force after districts began complaining that the current structure of the BEP is unfair.  In doing so, he essentially ignored the work of the standing BEP Review Committee, which annually reviews and recommends changes to the BEP formula.

After the committee’s initial meeting, Huffman said, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:

“The purpose of the task force is not to say Tennessee needs to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more of money that we may or may not have,” Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, said following the meeting. “The purpose of it to look at are the right components included as part of the formula, and given a fixed pie, how would you distribute that pie based on capacity.”

So, Huffman is in charge of a committee that’s tasked with deciding how to divide up an already inadequate pie.

If he’s serious about the work, he’d do well to go back to the reforms proposed under Governor Bredesen with the help of then-state Senator Jamie Woodson. Those reforms, dubbed BEP 2.0 changed BEP allocations and also added some new funding allocations.

The cost of fully funding BEP 2.0 would be around $150 million.

Finding that money may mean making difficult choices.  Just north of us, in Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear has proposed a budget making tough choices in order to fund education.  While many departments see budget cuts in his proposal, K-12 education sees budget increases.

While Governor Haslam and his legislative partners seem intent on eliminating the Hall Income Tax and reducing revenue, education suffers.  And if that agenda is what they believe is absolutely essential to Tennessee’s future, surely some cuts in other areas can be found in order to boost investment in public education.

Of course, proposing a budget that cuts most departments but increases funding for public schools requires leadership and tough choices.

Instead, it seems we have a committee focused on redistributing the slices of a shrinking pie.

For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow us @TNEdReport

 

One thought on “Huffman Chairs Pie-Slicing Task Force

  1. Actually, the group was very much for looking at the Task Force recommendations. Including Huffman.

    If you want to get into pointless finger pointing, then why were 3 years of the Task Force additional funding recommendations ignored under Bredesen? Haslam came in 2011.

    That’s not a productive conversation, because there are reasons for those increases not happening under Bredesen when he had the chance while still in office (such as he doesn’t have unilateral executive authority if he wanted to increase taxes for more revenue for education).

    Accusing people of positions they don’t support without considering the larger facts isn’t helpful for leading us towards some sort of solution. I think you’re smarter than that Andy and could be a lot more contributing positive to the conversation.

    There are all these far flung tangents that get introduced in the conversation which helps people go further into their corners.

    Haslam and Huffman have both voiced wanting to put more money into teacher salaries, and TN’s expenditures on education have been rising a good bit the last couple of years.

    In terms of trying to have a policy discussion:

    It’s not as simple as saying just add more money.

    1. That presumes that more money leads to higher student achievement. There’s a lot of research out there that questions that notion.

    2. People in TN don’t like taxes. Income or other. That is a non-partisan thing. So pinning the blame on Haslam for this seems a bit much. TN has a tradition of being a low tax low spend state. That was true under Bredesen, Sundquist, etc.

    Show me a TN gubernatorial candidate from either party whose platform is raising revenue through higher taxes, and I’ll guarantee you he or she will be a losing candidate.

    CO had some really good proposed changes last fall, that also asked for a funding increase. CO is more liberal than TN, and yet the proposal was overwhelming rejected by voters:
    http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24462841/voters-reject-big-tax-hike-school-finance-measure

    You think if TN put an education funding increase to voters in a state referendum that it would pass?

    3. Medicaid is eating up a much larger share of TN’s budget compared to other states. And TN spends above average on higher ed, with some fairly low outcomes. Bringing both of these up for my longstanding education spending productivity conversation, which nobody wants to have.

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