Last month, Tennessee’s Department of Education released the details of the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act. The bill would implement a new education funding formula to replace the 30-year-old Basic Education Program and change the way schools are funded. Considering Tennessee’s students receive some of the lowest funding in the country, this legislation is a big deal, and one that could last for generations.
The bill was presented to the state House last week, and in the state Senate Monday. At least one subcommittee will consider the legislation next week. Some lawmakers have expressed concern, noting that such a large bill shouldn’t be passed so quickly. Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) has also expressed concern about the longevity of the bill.
In Davidson County, leaders are worried about the TISA Act’s impact on Metro Nashville Public Schools.
MNPS director of schools Adrienne Battle noted at the March 8 school board meeting that Nashville’s students will receive less than many other students across Tennessee. Based on state projections, said Battle, Nashville’s students will only receive an average increase of $159 in per-pupil funding while the state average increase is $1,098.
“This may be an investment plan for some districts throughout Tennessee, but it represents a continued divestment by the state for Metro Nashville Public Schools, with added strings and red tape that won't necessarily result in better outcomes for our students,” Battle said during the meeting.
Nashville won’t receive as much funding because of the district’s fiscal capacity. Nashville makes more money from sales and property taxes than other counties, and is therefore expected to contribute more.
Shortly after the formula was released, Mayor John Cooper tweeted that while he is “appreciative of the state’s increased investment in education across Tennessee, I am dismayed that Nashville’s share of the funding will decline under the new formula. We are set to receive about $12.6 million in additional state funding, far less than other cities in Tennessee. Our children, teachers, and taxpayers deserve to receive their fair share from the state.”
Cooper tells the Scene via a spokesperson that he is “committed to working with the Nashville community, teachers, business leaders, nonprofits, parents, the Chamber of Commerce, the Governor and others to ensure Nashville students get the investment needed to succeed.”
Some city leaders are also concerned about the state's definition of economically disadvantaged students. In the TISA Act, economically disadvantaged students would receive more funding — but folks like Battle, District 8 MNPS board member Gini Pupo-Walker and the Nashville Public Education Foundation are concerned that the TISA Act won’t properly address all economically disadvantaged students.
Some amendments have already been added to the bill. One requires the creation of a TISA review committee, while others add or drop responsibilities affecting everyone from teachers to the state education commissioner. If the TISA Act is passed, it would begin in the 2023-2024 school year.