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New TN education funding formula meets advocate skepticism and district support as it makes way through legislature

Advocates said that the new education funding formula could do little to address the concerns of parents and families across Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Advocates criticized a new education funding formula as lawmakers continued discussing it in the Senate on Tuesday.

The formula is called the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement and would change how schools receive funding. Supporters of the formula said that it tailors funding around the individual needs of specific students, increasing the money schools would get if they serve students falling under some categories.

Those categories could include economically disadvantaged students, students living in impoverished areas and students with unique learning needs. It would replace a 30-year-old formula and could impact every student across the state.

However, advocates said that it may do very little to address existing issues in the state's education system.

The Tennessee Public Education Coalition said that more than $500 million will go exclusively to programs meant to teach students trade skills they can use in specific careers after school, instead of going to programs helping students attend higher education or increase to teacher salaries.

They also said the formula did not adequately address concerns from parents and families collected during public comment sessions about hiring more nurses and mental health counselors in schools.

Around $200 million will also go towards moving schools out of floodplains, according to advocates.

They also said around half of the members of the Tennessee Alliance for Equity in Education did not sign a letter supporting TISA. The letter was created by the Education Trust in Tennessee, which also helped make the alliance by bringing together civil rights, social justice and education organizations to promote educational equity.

The member organizations who did not sign it include YWCA Nashville, Save the Children and the TN Justice Center, according to advocates.

The letter says that, according to an analysis, TISA is not likely to increase tax contributions from local districts on a statewide basis. They said members of the alliance would also continue asking questions and making recommendations to improve TISA in the closing weeks of the General Assembly.

Some lawmakers also raised concerns about the funding formula's effectiveness. Representative Gloria Johnson (D - Knoxville) previously said that she thought the new formula could help improve equity in education across the state.

However, she also said she worried it could send more money from the state to charter schools even though they operate under a different set of rules than public schools. They usually do not need to follow federal regulator restrictions in the same way public schools do.

On Tuesday, state officials sent out a separate release saying they saw support for TISA from many local leaders. They said more than 100 local leaders and stakeholders across the state, including county mayors, school district directors, chambers of commerce and more shared their support.

That includes Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, the Knox Education Foundation, the Knoxville Area Urban League and tnAchieves.

Officials with Knox County Schools said they did not receive a request for an endorsement and they hope TISA will be beneficial to the school district and students for many future years.


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