Tag Archives: funding

Governor adds $30M to education budget to cover part of lawsuit contention

Days after seven Southeast Tennessee school systems filed a lawsuit against the state claiming inadequate state funding of education, Gov. Bill Haslam has added $30 million in education funding to his budget plan for the next year.
The money would cover payments for 11 months of health insurance for teachers. One of the points in the lawsuit is teacher insurance.

From The Tennessean:

The state (currently) pays 45 percent of health insurance premiums for 10 months, meaning local districts and teachers statewide are left with the brunt of insurance costs.

Haslam’s announcement to address teacher health insurance comes a little more than a week after representatives of the four largest districts in the state met with Haslam to discuss funding inadequacies in the BEP. The next day, seven Hamilton County-area school districts filed suit against the state because of what they see as inadequate funding of the program and state’s schools.

A main complaint of the funding inadequacy debate lies in teacher health insurance and pay, which some say is underfunded by $500 million.

“Funding teacher insurance is one of the two major concerns we shared with the governor last week, and it was the top recommendation of the BEP committee,” said Jesse Register, Metro Schools director. “This is the first step toward solving it. Reaching a full solution will take time and cooperation, but together we can come up with a substantive plan to properly fund public education in Tennessee.

“It also confirms for me that a lawsuit is the wrong direction to take. As today proves, more can be accomplished by working together than in the courts.”

But even with 11 months on the table, Metro Schools board member Anna Shepherd said Haslam’s move is only a baby step.

“He knows we need 12 and that we need the full funding,” Shepherd said. “That is the bottom line.”

Feds Provide $27 Million to 17 Low-Performing TN Schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Education has awarded three-year school improvement grants totaling more than $27 million in federal funds to 17 schools.
The schools are among the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state, in terms of academic achievement.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says a priority of the administration is to turn around those low-performing schools, and he believes the grant will give them the necessary resources, time and personnel to do that.
Officials say the grant will also give school principals a chance to work together in the state’s Turnaround Principal Cohort, which allows them to facilitate discussions and share ideas and practices on a peer-to-peer level.

TN Ranks 6th Among States in Reliance on Federal Funding

The Tax Foundation has done a listing of what percentage of states’ general revenue comes from federal aid. Tennessee comes in as the sixth most dependent on federal funding, which accounts for 44 percent of the state budget, according to the Tax Foundation.
From an emailed news release:
Mississippi relies more heavily on federal assistance than other states, with 49% of its total general revenue coming from federal aid. Close behind are Louisiana at 46.5% and Arizona at 45.7%. On the end of the spectrum, Alaska relies on federal aid for 24% of its general revenue, followed closely by Delaware at 25.9% and North Dakota at 26%.
A national map showing the rating of all state is HERE.

Two of Seven Regents Universities Lose Money Under ‘Complete College Act’

The University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College will receive less money from the state in the upcoming school yard than in the current year because of the Complete College Act passed by the Legislature in 2010, reports the Commercial Appeal.
The Memphis schools are the only two among the Tennessee Board of Regents’ six universities and 13 community colleges that the new formula would have cut for the 2013-14 school year if the extra money wasn’t available, according to TBR figures.
The new outcomes-based formula takes into account the colleges’ and universities’ success in such factors as retaining students, advancing them steadily toward degrees and awarding degrees and other credentials. As a result, the schools are placing new emphasis on student success, including tutoring and advising centers.
U of M and Regents officials emphasize that the University of Memphis had positive outcomes under the formula and that the indicated reduction is due to other factors.
U of M faces a $737,300 reduction in its recurring funding from state appropriations for 2013-14 — but a one-time, or nonrecurring, appropriation of $1,976,600 will more than offset that reduction — for one year only.
Southwest Tennessee Community College is losing $2.2 million in recurring state funding and is getting about $1.2 million in nonrecurring funding, for a net reduction from the state of about $1 million. The Board of Regents is expected to approve tuition increases of 3 percent for the community colleges and 6 percent at the U of M later this month, to round out the institutions’ operational funding.
In contrast, the other five Regents universities will receive increased recurring funding from the state ranging from $893,100 at Tennessee State University in Nashville to $3.7 million at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. And the 12 other community colleges will receive increases ranging from $463,100 at Volunteer State in Gallatin to $4.7 million at Chattanooga State.
TBR figures indicate that when the so-called “hold harmless” money — it holds the campuses “harmless” from funding cuts — ends after the upcoming school year, institutions on the lower end of the outcomes model could face state funding cuts unless the governor and legislature provide real increases in higher education operational funding across the board. They did that this year, for the first time in nearly a decade.
David G. Zettergren, vice president for business and finance at the U of M, said the university is taking several steps to control costs to compensate for state appropriation reductions while continuing to serve students. They include “streamlining, consolidating and reorganizing offices and services,” he said.
Memphis lawyer John Farris, a Board of Regents member and chairman of its Finance and Business Operations Committee, said he’s disappointed with the impact of base funding cuts on the Memphis schools
.

TN Misses Out on Some Federal Funding for Children, Family Programs

Tennessee’s child and family programs receive huge shares of their funding from the federal government, but the state still misses out on some competitive grants, reports the Tennessean.
Whether short-staffed, pressed for time or unable to drum up matching state dollars, Tennessee’s government grant writers encounter many hurdles to pulling in more federal funds that could help families, according to the report by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. (Link HERE)
Still, the state spent $3.9 billion in federal dollars on kids and families last fiscal year, and more than $9 billion overall. The report did not attempt to quantify the lost opportunities.
“The departments are fairly aggressive about (grants) that meet their main mission, but because we are a fairly lean government, we don’t have additional staffing and time to branch into other areas,” said Linda O’Neal, commission executive director. “There are opportunities that they see from time to time that they think are good ideas but realize just aren’t practical.”
The commission wants to examine how best to fund programs and reduce waste, so the analysis captures spending on everything from education and health care to arts and reading programs.
“There’s always this perception that there’s this huge duplication of services in government,” O’Neal said. “Through this process, we have not been able to identify substantial duplication.”
The 18-page-report describes Tennessee as “heavily reliant” on federal funds, with more than 90 percent of child spending built on federal dollars or state matching dollars required for federal grants.
“We’re very reliant on federal funds. All states are,” O’Neal said. “We may be more reliant than some.”

Haslam Ready to Cut Funding to Alvin York Institute… But When??

For a while Tuesday, Gov. Bill Haslam proposed to continue providing $2.4 million in annual funding to the school founded by World War I hero Alvin York for three more years, rather than shutting the money off after one more year as planned in the governor’s budget.
But spokesmen for about 200 supporters of York Institute – including a son and daughter of the sergeant who won the Congressional Medal of Honor – said that a cutoff of special state funding in three years is still inappropriately compromising a state government promise made to York in the 1930s.
“There’s probably going to be a floor fight in both chambers and we don’t know how it’s going to come out,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who is carrying Haslam’s bill on York Institute funding (HB1278). “With this bill, we’ll have that fight in three years instead of this year.”
The bill also set up a “transition planning committee” to assist in transferring financial responsibility for operating York Institute to Fentress County from the state.
But after the cool reception for what the administration saw as a compromise, McCormick at first moved to put off a vote on the proposal until today. Then – after a meeting with Haslam – he returned and yanked it from further consideration by the House Education Subcommittee, effectively withdrawing the offer and leaving in place plans to shut off direct state funding on July 1, 2014.
At that point, York Institute would be treated just like any other public school with Fentress County operating the school and receiving state funding through the Basic Education Program (BEP) formula. Local officials said that a property tax increase would likely be needed to offset the loss of $2.4 million in the special allocation.
McCormick said that Herbert Slaterly, the governor’s legal counsel, is reviewing “a stack of old documents” provided by York supporters to determine exactly what commitment was made by the state when York Institution was created by a legislative act in 1936.
The governor’s administration “wants to ween them off the money,” said McCormick. Beyond that, he said specifics of what to do are up in the air.
Legislators defending the present setup – Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, and Reps. Kelly Keisling, R-Harriman, and John Mark Windle, D-Livingston – all wore “York Forever” buttons. Basically, they contend that York wanted a school for rural youngsters and agreed to raise money and donate land to build the school in exchange for a state commitment to provide operational funding for the future.
In debate Tuesday, Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, said that eliminating the state funding would “tarnish the image and the memory of Sgt. York and that’s something we just don’t want to do.”
But Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, chairman of the subcommittee, said York’s legacy is not the only consideration. He declared that legislators also have “a fiscal responsibility to our state” because “unlike federal government, we have to balance our budget.”

Donations Replace State Funding for UT’s Sex Week

Sex Week UT will go on, reports the News Sentinel, thanks to its organizers’ securing roughly $7,000 more in funds in a single day.
After the University of Tennessee announced Wednesday evening that it was taking back $11,145 — two-thirds of the weeklong event’s budget — students and other supporters rallied, pushing donations through a PayPal account on the Sex Week UT Web page and a fundraising challenge on the independent site Indiegogo.
“I knew we would get the money back, but in one day!” said Brianna Rader, co-founder of Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, Sex Week’s sponsoring student organization. “I’m still shocked and disappointed that (funding was withdrawn), but I’m so pleased that we were given the opportunity to show how important this is to the students.”
…Sex Week’s cost was $18,195, including money for national speakers, T-shirts, posters and licensing to show two films (“Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Hysteria”), said Rader, who said the schedule had been set since January. That included $6,700 in student activity fees allocated by UT’s student-run Central Program Council, and $11,145 from various academic departments and programs that co-sponsored events.
On Wednesday, UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek decreed student programming dollars could be used, but the $11,145 — drawn from funds that included tuition payments and state allocations — could not.

UT Slashes Funding of Sex Week

Legislator criticism of the University of Tennessee’s Sex Week has led campus officials to announce they are cutting state funding to the event, the News Sentinel reports.
The weeklong series of events and panel discussions planned for the UT’s Knoxville campus, beginning April 5, has drawn unwanted attention from some state legislators, who have questioned the use of public money earmarked for the program.
Totaling $18,195, the bulk of the event’s funding — $11,145 — was expected to come from academic departments and programs, i.e. state funding.
Another $6,700 in student activity fees was allocated by student boards through UT’s Central Program Council.
On Wednesday, UT-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said the use of student programming dollars will be allowed, but the state funding will no longer be available.
“We support the process and the students involved, but we should not use state funds in this manner,” Cheek said in a written statement.

Gov Concerned About Sequester

Gov. Bill Haslam warns federal spending cuts looming at the end of this week would affect not just the state’s budget, but also Tennessee’s economy as a whole, reports WPLN.
The sequester would furlough some federal workers in places like Fort Campbell and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, potentially setting back local economies.
Haslam is careful to say he believes the federal government should spend less money, but he sees the sequester as the wrong approach, pointing to across-the-board cuts in places like Oak Ridge. They would do equal harm to projects that are needed, Haslam says, as to those he called a nice-to, but not a have-to.
“Take a workforce development program or training program – that would be cut 8 percent, just like cleaning up mercury out of the water and land that they’re in the middle of a process. And you’re gonna call the project off; the contractor who we’ve hired to do that, I guarantee you it’ll cost more to pull them off and send them back than the money you save there.”

On the ‘Open Container’ Law and Fed Funding

Tennessee and 18 other states are already restricted in how they spend some federal highway funds because they haven’t complied with federal mandates to combat drunken driving – notably by not enacting an “open container” law statewide. The Tennessean reports that 14 more states are facing the prospect of having federal funds held in reserve while the Federal Highway Administration completes an assessment of their laws.
A combined $539 million would have to be spent on anti-drunken-driving programs or highway safety improvements instead of on general road and bridge construction in those states.
…Jack Basso, chief operating officer of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said it appears the federal government has tightened its application of the rules.
“Probably they are within their authority,” Basso said. “The question is, is it really achieving the spirit of the law?”
Federal officials say they had to review states’ drunken-driving laws after Congress updated federal highway programs last year, including changes to some compliance requirements.
Tennessee’s open container laws for years have fallen short of federal regulations, said Kendell Poole, director of the state’s Governor’s Highway Safety Office. In Tennessee, it is legal for vehicle passengers to possess open containers of alcohol — just not drivers.
“Tennessee is known as a pass-the-bottle state,” Poole said. “The short of it is, because we don’t have an open container law that complies, we’re penalized road construction dollars. … But it comes back to the state in terms of behavioral programs, like the Booze It and Lose It campaign, and also grant awards.”
He said the state has been “penalized” similarly for at least a decade. The penalty means Tennessee can’t use the federal money for road construction projects but can divert it to alcohol-related public information campaigns and state transportation efforts that involve the installation of rumble strips, cable wire barriers and other hazard elimination projects.
Poole said his office supports strengthening the state’s open container laws, but legislative efforts have so far been unsuccessful.


Note: Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, has a bill to enact an “open container” law in Tennessee again this year as HB84. It’s not an administration bill, but there is a Haslam administration bill to rewrite the state’s DUI laws, as proposed by Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons. That bill is SB186.