Tennessee lawmaker concerned new school funding formula could lead to administrative bloat

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(The Center Square) – As Tennessee officials get closer to presenting a new state funding proposal for K-12 public education, at least one state senator is concerned about the costs of record-keeping in the new plan.

“The way the bill is going to read, the state is going to give a capitated rate per student to the district and then, for rural schools or economically disadvantaged schools or schools with high amounts of English as a second language, they give bonuses basically,” said Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, a member of the Rural and Small District Subcommittee –

Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntington, Tn

one of 18 subcommittees under a steering committee involved in reviewing the state’s school funding formula. “Extra money for these extra things that you do.

“Now you’ve just increased your administrative costs too because you’re going to have to prove how many students you have or how many English language learners. So the [Department of Education] is going to need staff to review your application, the local (district) is going to have to hire people to make the application. Here we go again. No teachers are going to get pay raises, and we’re going to have a bunch of administrative bloat within all these districts. So inefficient.”

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Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn provided an update on the department’s process of creating a new funding formula Dec. 21 to Gov. Bill Lee, who called for a review the state’s K-12 education funding model in October.

The department held eight public town halls and eight meetings with local leaders on local matching of state funds related to the new formula, which would replace the current Basic Education Program (BEP), which was created in 1992.

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If and when the funding formula change occurs, Tennessee would become one of 39 states with a student-based funding formula. Instead of receiving funds based on the district’s characteristics, the schools would receive a set amount of funding for each student and bonuses based on the student’s learning characteristics.

Stevens, like others, is concerned that local governments pay their portion along with the state, which budgeted to spend $5.6 billion in state funding on K-12 public education this fiscal year.

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