NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Department of Education is expected to get a pretty big budget this year since the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA) kicks off next school year.
Earlier this year, Gov. Bill Lee unveiled a plan to designate $6.6 billion from the state for K-12 education.
This week, various departments across state government have been presenting at budget hearings to Lee, arguing why their department should get a certain amount of money (generally, more than last year) this year.
“For the 2023-24 school year, every district will get at least what they received this year,” Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said.
However, if districts decline in enrollment, that money could fade a bit.
“We have a couple of districts that have had pretty significantly declining enrollment,” Schwinn said. “If they continue to decline in enrollment, this gives them essentially a four-year window in which they can get 75 percent, 50, 25 percent and slowly wean off what they might have received.”
Commissioner Schwinn said only three or four districts currently fit in that category.
Education was only a piece of the last two days. Another department of interest given Tennessee’s growth is the Department of Economic and Community Development.
When Lee won his re-election bid Tuesday night, he said one of his focuses for the next four years would be on infrastructure. At the budget hearings Thursday, you could see him already looking ahead, asking the department what the infrastructure budget was last year in this exchange: “What were the numbers last year? The actual numbers,” Lee asked.
“We had about $26 million [requested] in, and it got cut down to $7.8 [million] recurring, I think,” said Paul VanderMeer, Assistant Commissioner of Administration, Dept. of Economic and Community Development.
Lee followed up, asking what it had been prior to last year.
“We’d varied from $10 million to $20 million, somewhere in that range over the years, and it was all non-recurring before that,” VanderMeer responded.
Lee went on to talk about the need for the department to stress to the General Assembly how important infrastructure will be next year.
After these hearings, the governor then will prepare his fiscal proposal and presents it to the General Assembly by February 1st, 2023.