NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Teachers, students, parents and community members are invited to voice their opinions on how schools should be funded in Tennessee during a town hall meeting in Nashville Wednesday.
This comes as state lawmakers return to the Capitol Tuesday for the new legislative session where education is top of mind.
“That should be our main priority, right, our children are our future,” said Tennessee State Representative, Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville).
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State leaders are in the process of trying to change the formula for how public schools are funded in Tennessee. Governor Bill Lee called for a full review of the state’s funding formula for public education. He says he wants to focus on a student investment strategy that emphasizes all students rather than school systems. The state’s current school funding framework is known as the Basic Education Program (BEP) and it has not been meaningfully updated in more than 30 years.
“I know that we need to focus on the BEP formula, how to make that is a fair, equitable process for everyone throughout Tennessee,” said Rep. Dixie. “I want to make sure that the way that it’s done it, it doesn’t start going down a slippery slope for vouchers.”
The Tennessee Department of Education held a series of town hall meetings across the state to gather input about the changes people want to see.
“What I think has been the biggest takeaway is how remarkably consistent the feedback has been across the state. We want to focus on low-income students, children with disabilities, and children who speak a language other than English, a lot of focus on giving more supports to our rural communities as well,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn.
She said there were also comments about concerns that have been raised for years.
“Nurses, counselors, school psychologists, teachers, salary insurance and benefits, deferred maintenance, and then really looking at how do we provide some additional supports for those kids who needed the most,” Dr. Schwinn explained. “There were things I haven’t thought about: how do we fund based on, let’s say, different types of disabilities in different ways? How do we think about, you know, our rural districts versus what we call sparsity because we’ve got a lot of rural districts? But if they’re really big, then those needs are very different than a very small geographic size district that is also rural.”
Now they’re compiling those public comments so department leaders can submit a plan that lawmakers can vote on.
You can share your thoughts and ideas on state education funding at a town hall with the Metro Nashville School District and the state department of education Wednesday. It’ll be at the metro school’s headquarters at 2601 Bransford Avenue inside the MNPS boardroom at 6:30 p.m.
All Tennesseans are invited to submit public comments via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadline of January 14 in order to be considered by subcommittee members.