Friday, January 21, 2022
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BEP Town Hall Discussion Focuses On Equity In School Funding

Equity. That was the word most used at Tuesday night’s forum on public school funding.

Jackson Schools High School Supervisor of Instruction Deb Whitaker said that when the state recognizes smaller counties have had to make do with their resources.

“We have to do the same things that systems ten times our size do with one-tenth the number of people,” Whitaker said. “We want the same thing for our kids that the biggest system in the state of Tennessee wants. But we’re doing it with a  lot less resources.”

Cannon County Director of Schools William Curtis said that rural schools are having issues competing with larger counties to retain teachers.

“And it’s tough for us in Cannon County to keep those individuals much less recruit them,” Curtis said. “So the equity issue that Kurt (Dronebarger) has raised and Joe Barlow has raised is very, very critical to us.”

State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn told the audience Tuesday night at Jackson County Middle School that the state has been reviewing other models of other states who have recently transitioned to student-based funding. She said that those states include Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas, and Ohio.

Schwinn said that the next steps will be to get a new funding formula to the Tennessee General Assembly. She said that while there are many ifs, there is an expected 14-month to 16-month timeline for implementation if something were passed in spring.

“So part of what will happen is over three months at the end of January, Governor and General Assembly will make a decision about if they would like to move forward with the new forward with a new formula,” Schwinn said. “If they choose to do so and if the governor presents that in his budget with whatever that additional funding might be. One of the things that we would do is then, at the end of January, that would be presented that to the general assembly. They might pass it, they might not. If they do, there would be a longer runway for implementation.”

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