NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Lee is promising big and bold changes to public school education in Tennessee. The 50th governor is directing millions in his proposed budget to funding and remaking how schools are operated.
Lee will have an opportunity to put his stamp on education in Tennessee. He’s proposing $1 billion in new recurring education spending and $750 million for a new K-12 education formula.
“We’ll see, we’ll get in committee and we’ll see what that looks like there’s a lot of money in there and so we’re going to be very careful of about making sure that we do get the outcomes that the Department of Education says we will get,” Speaker Cameron Sexton said.
But the proposals are lacking specifics and Democrats say there needs to be a focus on protecting public schools.
“The fundamental issue with our education, with our BEP formula in Tennessee is that there’s not enough funding for it and regardless of what the governor says his budget does not substantially change that,” Sen. Heidi Campbell said.
Lee also wants $125 million for the teacher salary pool, but exact raise amounts are unknown at this time.
“So there’s been an ongoing conversation for a long time about this and I think that the administration has just started to compile all of that conversation, as well as, the subcommittee meetings into a document that we can review,” Republican Senator Bo Watson said.
Democrats insist Governor Lee’s funding remodel is a backdoor way for school vouchers.
“This formula really is going to make it a lot easier for vouchers to come down especially if it’s student-based and you can put an individual number with each student that’s the precursor for vouchers so I just wish the governor would be upfront,” Nashville Representative Vincent Dixie said.
Republicans are hoping the new funding formula is in place for the fiscal year of 2024.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton says he would also like to look at healthcare costs when it comes to educators in the weeks to come.