After more than a year of research, analysis, and engagement, SCORE has outlined recommendations for a new approach to education funding in the memo, Modernizing Education Funding To Support Every Student. These four recommendations can help us modernize Tennessee’s education funding system to deliver greater success for students in public schools.

Our recommendations to modernize education funding in Tennessee are:

  • Student weighted: Create a new funding formula that funds students, not a list of school resources. To better meet student learning needs, the funding should be weighted to provide more support to the students who need it most. There should be weights to provide additional funds to educate students who are economically disadvantaged, in special education (including gifted programs), learning English, or live in communities with sparse population or concentrated poverty or attend public charter schools. 
  • More transparent: Require greater transparency on spending at the school and district level so that policymakers, voters, and parents can better understand education investment decisions, and hold local and state leaders responsible for results. 
  • Larger investment: Increase recurring state investment in Tennessee public schools, with substantially more funding directed to students with significant needs. SCORE recommends Tennessee develop a multiyear strategy that will bring per-pupil spending closer to the national average, beginning with an additional recurring state investment of at least $1 billion.
  • Clearer local contributions: Solve longstanding questions and concerns regarding the local ability to support education, known as local fiscal capacity. The local fiscal capacity approach should be more transparent, calculate capacity at the district (not county) level, and move to an absolute fiscal capacity approach.

The draft framework released by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) — which prioritizes weighting for students with the biggest learning challenges and proposes additional investments in tutoring and career and technical education — is an encouraging start. SCORE has offered feedback on a few areas that need clarity and refinement, such as specific weights, total investment, and local fiscal contributions. Overall, we believe the TDOE framework advances many of the key principles and priorities SCORE and other education partners have been calling for in education finance reform.

If Tennessee provides more education resources and uses them more effectively, we can make progress toward realizing important goals for our students. We can double proficiency rates in math and English language arts. Tennessee students can rank among the best in the nation for academic achievement. And our students can be well prepared to succeed in college and careers, helping to secure the state’s economic future.

As Tennessee navigates this process to modernize education funding, we look forward to engaging with state and local education stakeholders, advocacy partners, and others to ensure that students in Tennessee public schools receive an excellent education.

Read the recommendations.

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