TISA 101: Student & School District Characteristics that Boost K-12 Funding

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Gov. Bill Lee has proposed replacing Tennessee’s current K-12 education funding formula with a new calculation that gives extra weight to certain student and district-level characteristics. If the proposed Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) formula becomes law, these characteristics would help determine how much state funding goes to each district. Future reports will explore other key elements of that calculation, including fiscal capacity.

Adopting TISA would change the state’s general approach to calculating the cost of an adequate K-12 education for all Tennessee students. Tennessee’s current funding formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP), takes a “resource-based” approach that uses the costs of dozens of inputs and resources to determine funding levels. The TISA formula proposed by Gov. Lee uses a “student-based” approach with a standard amount per pupil and adjustments for students who have additional needs. 

The dashboard below shows how the factors that drive overall funding levels under TISA vary across Tennessee’s 140 school districts.[i] These numbers do not by themselves determine the amount of state funding that each district would get. Like the BEP, the TISA formula ultimately answers three core questions that together would determine how much money each school district receives from the state and how much locals must spend. They are:

  1. Total Size of the Pie: What does it cost to provide an “adequate” education to every child in Tennessee?
  2. Total State/Local Split: How much of that total cost does the state cover, and how much do locals cover?
  3. District-Specific Split: How much does each specific district receive from the state?

This dashboard focuses on some key variables the TISA formula uses to answer question one about the total size of the pie.

A Closer Look at the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA) https://thealliancetn.org/dollars-and-sense/tisa-evaluation/