Today, SCORE (Statewide Collaborative on Reforming Education) – a group formed by Bill Frist to influence education policy in Tennessee – held its annual “state of education” event. At the event, SCORE highlighted priorities for 2022.
Here they are:
Note that these priorities do not include improving school funding by way of increasing dollars allocated to the BEP.
Never fear, however, SCORE has a document on school funding.
The document contains an interesting analysis of reasons why the current school funding formula falls short. And, while the document notes that Tennessee schools don’t have enough teachers, nurses, or support staff, SCORE stops short of making an outright call for dramatically improved school funding.
Here’s how the funding issue is handled (on page 28 of the document):
Tennessee policymakers have continued to fully fund the
state’s share of the current formula in recent years, but the $1.7
billion in additional non-BEP, locally funded education spending
clearly indicates that the formula does not reflect the full cost
of educating today’s students.55 While specific technical
methods and assumptions can influence the amounts needed
to educate students, Tennessee has a clear opportunity to
improve beyond previous investments.
And, in a graph on page 24, SCORE suggests:
While there is no consensus about the amount that Tennessee should spend on K-12 education, current education funding levels show Tennessee trailing the nation by a variety of measures.
So, these are some pretty nice ways of saying Tennessee schools need more investment. But, so as not to get sideways with Gov. Lee and political types who balk at “throwing money at schools,” SCORE stops short of using its significant power and influence to make a clear, direct call for billions in new investment in Tennessee schools.
Reading these statements makes it sound like if we make a slightly larger pie and just slice it a little differently, all will be well.
But, well, it won’t.
It’s also worth noting that SCORE has been the key influencer on Tennessee education policy for the last decade. Here are some reminders of how that’s been going:
A note from the end of the 2021 legislative session:
“The budget passed by the General Assembly is disappointing when we have a historic opportunity to get Tennessee out of the bottom five in education funding. With a record revenue surplus and hundreds of millions unappropriated, this was the time to stop underfunding our schools.
There were bills to provide for more nurses, counselors, RTI specialists and social workers that our students need today and moving forward to meet their mental and academic challenges cause by the pandemic and the problems of chronic underfunding. Instead, we saw a trust fund set up that will cover barely a fraction of the needs years down the road.
It’s unconscionable for state leaders to not include significant increases for K-12 funding, especially at a time when the state has racked up $1.42 billion in surplus year-to-date. The money is there to make a significant increase to K-12 funding, but Gov. Lee and the General Assembly have instead chosen to continue stuffing mattresses full of cash.
Tennessee consistently ranks in the 44-46 range when it comes to overall investment in public schools. National groups that study school funding consistently grade Tennessee at an “F” when it comes to funding effort. Our school systems are facing significant teacher and staffing shortages. All of this has happened while SCORE has been driving the education policy train. Now, SCORE is asking state policymakers and Tennessee citizens to follow them – to keep rolling with a train that has led to – as SCORE puts it on page 23:
The Tennessee education finance system is rated among
worst in the nation. Tennessee’s finance system has
earned a ranking that sits among the lowest in the nation.
According to Education Week’s Quality Counts analysis of
state education systems, Tennessee received a D+ (69.0) in
school finance against a national grade of C (76.1), ranking
among the bottom 10 states nationally and third lowest in
the Southeast, ahead of Florida and North Carolina.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport
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