A billion-dollar funding boost?

·7 min read

Hello and welcome to School Zone. This is education reporter Meghan Mangrum.

A billion-dollar boost to K-12 funding

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee may have just proposed more than $1 billion in new recurring funding for K-12 education, but it could still be a long way before students and teachers see the impact.

That's thanks to myriad factors, the least of which is that the governor still needs to get his new funding formula proposal through the legislature.

Of the $1 billion, $250 million has been earmarked specifically for growth and inflationary costs under the state's current funding formula, the Basic Education Program, and $125 million will be directed toward teacher compensation and salaries.

The remaining $750 million is a preemptive effort to fund a potential new funding formula. But new formula wouldn't go into effect until the fiscal year 2024, if lawmakers approve it (impacting the 2023-24 school year).

Instead, the $750 million will go toward one-time investments this year, including increasing school infrastructure for career and technical education programs, moving 14 schools out of flood plains and a $50 million investment in the state's GROW and SPARK programs.

'Questions remain' on state's funding formula proposal

But questions remain, including whether that $750 million would go toward education each year going forward if the legislature does not approve a new formula and whether lawmakers will actually successfully tackle a new iteration of a 30-year-old problem this spring.

Stay tuned to more coverage from The Tennessean on this and more on the governor's proposed fiscal 2023 budget.

Additional budget highlights

K-12 education

  • Proposing a new law that will ensure parents know what materials are available to students in their libraries.

  • Proposing new legislation with a potential $10 million investment to make computer science and coding classes available to every high school student in Tennessee.

  • $2.5 million to expand the state's Future Workforce Initiative.

  • Formalizing a partnership with Hillsdale College to expand their approach to civics education and K-12 education in Tennessee.

  • $125 million in recurring funds toward teacher compensation and providing "a well-deserved increase" to the teacher salary pool, according to the Governor's Office.

  • $25 million in recurring funding to continue state-sponsored summer learning camps ahead of the implementation of the state's third-grade reading gate ahead of the 2022-2023 school year, which will require students to attend summer school (among other options) if they are not on track in reading after third grade in order to be promoted to fourth grade.

  • $16 million in recurring funds and $16 million in one-time funds to the Charter Schools Facility Fund for charter school capital costs.

Higher education

  • $90 million to fully fund a new higher education outcomes-based formula, enabling a 0% tuition increase for public universities.

  • $200 million for TCAT infrastructure investments to help double the skilled workforce by 2026.

  • $72 million to complete the Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, a partnership with the University of Tennessee to invest in data science and technology, advanced materials, and outcomes-based applications.

  • $6 million to establish the Institute of American Civics at the University of Tennessee.

  • $50 million to a Carnegie R1 research fund at the University of Memphis, matched by private donors, to sustain the university’s R1 designation.

  • $250 million in infrastructure improvements at Tennessee State University to mitigate life-safety issues and help improve academic and student campus buildings.

  • $75.2 million to increase the 4-year HOPE Award to $5,100 per student, per year, and the 2-year HOPE Award to $3,200 per student, per year.

  • Four percent salary pool increase for higher education employees to ensure they attract and retain the best employee base possible.

Of 'Maus' and men

Before the governor took over the limelight — and the headlines — Monday night, mice dominated them instead.

News of McMinn County school board's removal of a graphic novel about the Holocaust, "Maus" by Art Spiegelman, from school curriculum dominated international headlines last week.

News of the board's removal of the book from its curriculum was first reported Wednesday night by the progressive activist website The Tennessee Holler, following the release of a report by a Middle Tennessee school district earlier in the week that also recommended removing a book from the curriculum.

McMinn County school officials recommended the "Maus" removal due to "unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide" and argued that students can be taught about the Holocaust with more "age-appropriate" materials.

But some wonder how authentic the argument about "age-appropriateness" is.

Williamson County parents, including representatives of the conservative parent advocacy group Moms for Liberty, also called into question whether some curriculum materials are age-appropriate, but after the review committee failed to remove those items from the curriculum, the group is again appealing to the Tennessee Department of Education to have four texts — on topics like the first Black child to integrate New Orleans schools, Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Washington and a Latinx family's experience integrating Los Angeles schools — removed.

Now several lawmakers have proposed legislation that would either restrict what is available in classrooms or school libraries and/or give parents greater say in what their children have access to — and the governor has signed on. He is backing the proposed "Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022."

Follow The Tennessean's ongoing coverage this week for more.

Hearing from you

With that, is there anything The Tennessean might have missed?

I'd love to hear from you! You can reach me at mmangrum@tennessean.com or on Twitter @memangrum.

And thank you for reading! Our coverage of education and children's issues wouldn't be possible without Tennessean subscribers. If you aren't already one, please consider becoming a subscriber today.

Extra credit

► The College Board announced last week that the SAT, one of the nation’s most commonly used college entrance exams, is going digital. But some students still struggle with digital literacy and broadband access, and many colleges and universities have stopped requiring standardized test scores for admission in recent years, so how big is this news? My USA TODAY colleague Chris Quintana reports.

► PENCIL, one of Nashville's most well-known education-focused nonprofits, recently launched a second free school supply store for Metro Nashville Public Schools teachers, Main Street Nashville first reported. The new location is inside the Tri-Star Medical Plaza at 5380 Hickory Hollow Pkwy in Antioch. The grand opening comes as the group also renames its free supply stores in celebration of a $175,000 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

► Tennessee's largest school district, located in Shelby County in West Tennessee, recently renamed itself. The former Shelby County Schools system is now dubbed the Memphis-Shelby County Schools in alignment with the system's tie to schools predominantly located in the city of Memphis. Commercial Appeal reporter Laura Testino has the full story here.

► A Metro Nashville Public Schools science teacher, Sonya Mansfield of W. A. Bass Alternative Learning Center, was recently named a recipient of a Vernier Software & Technology 40th Anniversary grant. Each of the 40 grantees — who were selected from more than 800 submissions and represent a range of grade levels and geographic regions nationwide — will receive $1,000 in data-collection technology of their choosing and three hours of virtual professional development to further support their teaching, according to a news release.

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Metro Nashville Public Schools is still looking for volunteer tutors to work one-on-one with students who need help catching up in reading or math. Volunteers with the Accelerating Scholars program will be paired with a student in first, second or third grade to work on English language arts or eighth and ninth grade to work on math. Volunteers will meet virtually with students for three 30-minute sessions a week for 10 weeks. Volunteers will receive training and other resources. The deadline to sign up is Tuesday, Feb. 1. For more information: Tutor.MNPS.org.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: A billion-dollar funding boost?