The highly anticipated State of the State address delivered by Governor Bill Lee on Monday, January 31, proposed a $1 billion recurring investment in K-12 education and a redesigned education funding formula. While much of this fiscal year’s investment will be used for various one-time projects, the proposed recurring amount for a new K-12 formula in future fiscal years aligns to SCORE’s Modernizing Education Funding recommendations.  

Governor Lee said the administration’s formula proposal will prioritize “the needs of students above all else,” paying particular attention to students with disabilities, rural students, low income-students, and students with other priority needs. SCORE will continue working to ensure that the new funding formula funds student needs rather than a list of resources. We are eager to see additional details on a student-weighted formula and to ensure the proposal also improves transparency and reporting around local spending and resolves local capacity challenges.

Governor Lee’s budget proposal would also provide funding for key education priorities that SCORE identified in the 2022 State of Education in Tennessee and other reports. Noteworthy items include:

Career And Technical Education In K-12

Proposed $2.5 million nonrecurring to support the Future Workforce Initiative, including Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher training, and $500 million nonrecurring for CTE grants to middle and high schools.

Strengthening CTE and increasing partnerships across education and industry can provide students with pathways to workforce-aligned learning opportunities that prepare them for careers.

Teaching Profession

Proposed over $220 million recurring to the existing K-12 funding formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP), including $97.6 million for growth, inflation, and group health insurance and $124.6 million for the instructional salaries component. Governor Lee also highlighted support for Grow Your Own initiatives to build the teacher workforce pipeline.

Research has shown that teachers are the most important school-related factor impacting student achievement. Investing in Tennessee educators to strengthen the workforce pipeline is an important step toward retaining and recruiting high-quality teachers.

Charter Facilities

Proposed $32 million ($16 million recurring and $16 million nonrecurring) toward the Charter School Facilities Fund.

Charter schools do not have access to the same facility funds as traditional public schools. Without this support they must redirect per-pupil funds toward facility needs. Facility funding for public charter schools strengthens the learning experience for students.

Postsecondary Persistence And Completion

Proposed $90 million recurring to fully fund the outcomes-based funding formula that rewards public colleges and universities for retaining and graduating students; as well as over $88 million to increase the value of the HOPE scholarship award, to expand CTE dual enrollment courses, to increase Tennessee Reconnect eligibility for students starting at age 23, and to expand the HOPE nontraditional and HOPE Foster Child Tuition programs to serve more students. The budget proposal also included $250 million nonrecurring to improve physical infrastructure at Tennessee State University and $14.5 million nonrecurring for KnoxPromise to advance research-supported completion strategies to address college completion gaps.

Career Readiness

Proposed $200 million nonrecurring to expand career preparation through Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) equipment and facility upgrades; and $19.4 million ($8 million recurring and $11.4 million nonrecurring) to reduce TCAT enrollment waitlists.

A postsecondary degree or credential is more essential for success in life and career than ever before. Equipping more students to obtain a postsecondary degree or credential is a critical strategy for preparing Tennesseans for jobs. Increasing access to industry credentials aligned to employer needs through investments in our TCATs will support more students to be ready for careers.

This is a pivotal time for ensuring that more students have the opportunity for life and career success. SCORE will stay engaged in the coming months to monitor these proposals and advocate for policies and investments that pave a path forward so that today’s students are prepared for tomorrow.

Amanda Glover and Madeline Price are senior policy analysts at SCORE.