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.
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