Here’s what the Tennessee affiliate of the Portland, Oregon-based group said in a recent email:
The State of Tennessee funds schools through the Basic Education Plan (BEP), an overly complex and poorly understood funding formula that has not been meaningfully updated for 30 years. Currently, TN ranks 44th of the 50 states in terms of funding K-12 Education, and the state faces a lawsuit in February that could result in an overhaul of the current funding model. Earlier in 2021, Governor Bill Lee announced that the state would review the BEP and invited communities around TN to weigh in on updating the state education funding model through town halls and public comment.
While Stand for Children is applauding the update process and noting the need for more funding, other groups have been more explicit about the need for significant new investments in Tennessee’s public schools.
While many are apparently excited about the planned BEP update, one group has been calling for meaningful reform for years. That group? The state’s BEP Review Committee. This committee of educators meets every year to recommend improvements to the formula. Of course, the legislature and Governor are notorious for ignoring those recommendations. But, let’s look back to 2015 and see what was recommended:
Eliminate Cost Differential Factor (CDF) $(71,182,000)
Fund ELL Teachers 1:20 — COST: $28,709,000
Fund ELL Translators 1:200 COST: $2,866,000
CBER at 100% $(2,639,000)
Instructional Component at funded at 75% by State COST: $153,448,000
Insurance at 50% COST: $26,110,000
BEP 2.0 Fully Implemented COST: $133,910,000
Change funding ratio for elementary counselors from 1:500 to 1:250 $39,409,000
Change funding ratio for secondary counselors from 1:350 to 1:250 $18,079,000
Change funding ratio for all counselors to 1:250 $57,497,000
Change Assistant Principal ratio to SACS standard $11,739,000
Change 7-12 funding ratios, including CTE, by 3 students $87,928,000
New BEP Component for Mentors (1:12 new professional positions) $17,670,000
Professional Development (1% of instructional salaries) $25,576,000
Change funding ratios for nurses from 1:3,000 to 1:1,500 $12,194,000
Change funding ratios for Technology Coordinators from 1:6,400 to 1:3,200 $4,150,000
Increase Funding for teacher materials and supplies by $100 $6,336,000
Instructional Technology Coordinator (1 per LEA) $5,268,000
Change funding ratio for psychologists from 1:2,500 to 1:500 $57,518,000
The point? We don’t really need ANOTHER examination of the BEP formula. We know it is broken. We know it falls short. In fact, a bipartisan group of state and local policymakers suggests we’re $1.7 billion behind where we should be in terms of K-12 education funding.
Still, education reform groups like SCORE are acting all excited this time as if there’s never been a serious discussion of improving the BEP before.
The fact is, the BEP Review Committee has consistently asked for both an updated formula and MORE investment. And, routinely, the Tennessee General Assembly has simply told this group education experts and practitioners that their voices don’t matter.
It’s time for Bill Lee and legislators to stop pretending they haven’t heard about what needs to be done for schools. The reports from the BEP Review Committee provide a clear blueprint for funding formula improvement and a priority list for new investment.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport
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