It’s time for student-focused school funding in Tennessee | Viewpoint

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The future leaders of our state are in our classrooms today. It is in our collective interest for every child to reach their full potential.

Where a child lives — whether it’s an urban, suburban or rural community — should not be what determines whether they have the resources they need to achieve their dreams and receive the kind of education that allows them to live a fulfilling life.

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We believe there is no better time than now to modernize the way Tennessee funds education by improving our school funding formula so every child has what they need to become the best version of themselves.

The current funding formula for school is not focused on student achievement

The state’s resource-based model has forced our school leaders into equating more money with more staff and overhead rather than thinking about what students need the most and then directing the money to meet those needs in the classroom.

That’s why we advocate for and support a new student-based formula that focuses on the students and their unique needs first.

Parents and school faculty members attend the student-focused public education funding town hall meeting on October 27, 2021, in Hendersonville, Tenn. This is the first of eight state-led town hall meetings to discuss revising the state's education funding formula.

Parents and school faculty members attend the student-focused public education funding town hall meeting on October 27, 2021, in Hendersonville, Tenn. This is the first of eight state-led town hall meetings to discuss revising the state’s education funding formula.

We’re focusing on asking all the right questions:

  • Are our students learning at grade level? If not, why not?
  • How many students come from low-income backgrounds?
  • How many are English language learners?
  • What special needs do our students have?
  • What extra supports do they need to succeed?
  • Are we adequately funding those specific needs?

A formula that answers these questions is a formula for the future and one that our students deserve. Sadly, the state’s current formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP) forces school leaders to seek the money first before asking these critical questions.

Even though education spending in Tennessee has continued to increase over the years, too many of those tax dollars are simply not making into the classrooms to directly serve our students and teachers.

According to a recent analysis by the Beacon Center of Tennessee,only about 53% of our state’s education funding actually makes it into the classroom, while the remainder of the funds that were originally meant for students is actually being spent on administrative costs and overhead. This is bad for everyone and helps too few children across our state reach their full potential.