NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee wants to change how Tennessee schools are funded.
Last week the GOP governor announced a review of the basic education formula ahead of the next legislative session.
Tennessee’s current school funding framework, the Basic Education Program, commonly known as BEP, has not been updated in more than 30 years.
Now some education leaders are calling on the Lee administration to be more transparent.
According to the National Education Association, Tennessee ranks near the bottom in education funding.
The BEP could see major changes if Governor Lee gets his way.
“What we have to remember is, it doesn’t matter how you carve up the money, how you plan to spend the money if the amount of money is insufficient,” Beth Brown, President of Tennessee Education Association said. “Quite frankly, that’s what we have in the state of Tennessee. We are 46th in the nation in what we invest in students.”
Gov. Lee‘s newest education funding push comes as his previous school voucher attempt is held up in court on the grounds of constitutionality.
Teacher advocates said any attempt to remake voucher programs will be met with resistance.
“Research shows that two out of three Tennesseans do not support school vouchers, and so attempts to continue to push that program will not be popular,” Brown said.
She added as lawmakers prepare to revisit school funding formulas students should be top of mind.
“Our top line priority has to be making sure that every single student in the state of Tennessee has access to a high quality public education,” Brown said.
Tennessee spends $5.6 billion dollars on K-12 education a year and TEA is calling for more.
“Just reformulating how we’re spending our money is not going to make that happen.” Brown continued, “We have to get serious about proper investment and getting Tennessee out together the bottom five.”
Governor Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn have not delivered specifics on how they want to change the formula.
“This cannot be rushed,” Brown said. “We’re halfway through October. We’re very soon going to be in the holiday season and then the General Assembly will come into session in January. If we want to do it and do it right, we cannot rush the process.”
The state announced 18 committee chairs that will explore how to change the education formula.