This blog is part two of a two-part series looking at key themes elevated during state education funding subcommittee meetings. Part two looks at the final three meetings of six, which took place in January. A summary of the first three meetings can be found here.
The prioritization of student needs and teacher supports, a need to consider local fiscal capacity, and requests for additional details were key themes that emerged in recent funding review subcommittees convened by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE).
Following Governor Lee’s call for Tennesseans to review the public education funding formula in the fall, TDOE released a draft framework for a new student-based funding formula and the governor proposed a $1 billion dollar investment in K-12 education in his State of the State address.
Alongside these developments, it is critical to review the issues that were consistently raised by the 18 education finance review subcommittees convened by TODE to inform a redesigned education formula. These subcommittees, comprised of stakeholders from across the state, recently completed their final meeting. SCORE has monitored these meetings to understand what funding priorities are top of mind for Tennesseans who participated.
In the final three meetings, members finalized top priorities for improving public education funding, reviewed TDOE’s draft formula framework, and responded to several funding policy considerations. Building upon themes identified in the first three meetings, the following topics emerged in the final discussions:
Members emphasized the importance of providing funding formula weights for students with the greatest needs, including economically disadvantaged students, English language learners, and special education students. There was consensus that weights should be cumulative, or stacked, to ensure all student needs are met. Furthermore, subcommittee members wanted to ensure that enrollment counts are precise and up to date so that all student needs are captured accurately.
Increasing teacher pay, designating funding for teacher professional development, and supporting teacher recruitment and training pipelines were consistently highlighted as top priorities.
Local Fiscal Capacity
Subcommittee members highlighted that to transparently understand the impact of a new funding formula, the policy must be clear about what local communities will be expected to contribute (i.e. local fiscal capacity).
Additional Reporting Requirements
Subcommittees discussed the need for transparent reporting on per-pupil expenditures and wanted to ensure that resources are reaching the schools and students with the greatest need. Members pointed out that additional reporting requirements should be accompanied by professional development for districts and resources to support districts with financial and data management.
Career & Technical Education (CTE)
Subcommittees consistently advocated for increasing access to high-quality, workforce-aligned CTE opportunities to prepare students for careers.
Subcommittees offered suggestions for potential outcomes to include in performance funding, though some members were concerned that tying funding to outcomes would be punitive or inequitable. Subcommittees recommended that performance funding, if included, prioritize measures of growth.
Details On Framework
Subcommittee members had positive reactions to TDOE’s funding framework but wanted more information on the overall expected investment (subcommittee meetings ended prior to the State of the State address). They also questioned the strength of the weights, whether the current list of resources included in the base was exhaustive, and how their feedback would be considered going forward.
To learn more about Tennessee’s funding formula redesign, download SCORE’s Funding For Learning report and funding recommendations memo. For more information about TDOE’s funding redesign process, refer to their public education funding engagement landing page.