Setting the stage for what could be a broad-based assault on stateeducation funding levels by school districts all over the state, the Metro Nashville School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to ask Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly to “adequately fund public education” in a way that would allow local districts to meet rigorous new academic standards.
From The Tennessean:
At issue is the state’s funding education funding law known as the Basic Education Program, or BEP, which the Metro board claims hasn’t been fully funded since it was overhauled six years ago under then-Gov. Phil Bredesen.
“It’s a shared responsibility to educate our students,” school board member Amy Frogge said. “We have a state legislature that has passed a law, and there’s no compliance with the funding aspect of that.”
The resolution cites a November report from the BEP’s Review Committee that found Metro would need an additional $12.7 million on top of the $253.4 million it got this year from the state to become fully funded under the program. Statewide, that gap is $146 million, the report says. School officials claim an additional $74.6 million was required for Nashville this year to meet the committee’s funding recommendations, which include adequate teacher salaries.
Metro’s resolution also references a May report from the U.S. Census Bureau that found Tennessee, at $8,765, is 49th in per-pupil public school funding. That report, the most recent compiled by the bureau, is based on 2011 data and includes state, local and federal resources.
Frogge, who sponsored the resolution, said she would be showing it to the school boards of Memphis-Shelby County, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Together, they form a lobbying arm at Capitol Hill on behalf of the state’s four largest school systems.
…Metro officials have long criticized the equity of the BEP funding formula. Major changes were made in the early 1990s to help rural districts, but the formula today allocates fewer dollars to districts such as Metro Nashville that have the capacity to generate more local tax revenue.
At $3,103 per student, Metro ranks fourth to last among districts in the amount it gets per pupil from the state. Its local share accounts for two-thirds of its education dollars.
An attorney for Metro Nashville Public Schools in September advised the board to explore whether the BEP is equitable for large school systems such as Nashville. But instead of directing its resolution at the equity of that system, the resolution approved Tuesday questions the adequacy of education funding statewide.
…“It’s way too early to talk about going to court,” Metro school board member Will Pinkston said. “The first step is to surface concerns — do it collectively with the large districts — and see if the state is willing to listen and have a conversation. But if all else fails, you reserve the right to pursue legal remedies, but that would be way down the road.”