State Education Department Seeks More Funding
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
This information comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles and five other area counties. Tennessee’s Department of Education is requesting a recurring $353.3 million state budget increase starting in fiscal year 2023-2024.
The request, which comprises 16 line items, was presented to Gov. Bill Lee and the state’s executive budget team during November hearings.
The hearings were an opportunity for government agencies to provide updates on their budgets and identify future needs.
Education is always a top issue, representing the largest appropriation of state dollars in the budget. The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act is by far the largest line item, at $284 million, though it is a placeholder number based on current projections. The department is expected to announce final numbers in mid-December after collecting additional data. TISA will update the way Tennessee funds public education for the first time in over 30 years, transitioning the state’s K-12 public schools to a student-based funding approach starting in the 2023-2024 school year.
The legislation invests a historic $1 billion in new funding for K-12 public education, and aims to empower each student to read proficiently by third grade, prepare each high school graduate for postsecondary success, and provide resources needed to ensure all students succeed. The remainder of the funding increase request totals approximately $70 million. That funding would continue or expand programs currently supported by one-time federal funds or partnerships. Among line items is $5 million for the state’s Grow Your Own teacher training program, which builds pipelines of qualified teachers and school district professionals.
The requested funding increase would match federal dollars to prepare more people to become teachers at no cost and get them into classrooms earlier with more preparation and support, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said. Schwinn noted the program is preparing future teachers to fill 650 vacancies in most of the districts in the state over roughly 18-months, with another 350 teachers signed up for the statewide apprenticeship program starting in January. She said there remain about 1,000 true vacancies across the state with another 1,200 teachers on permits or waivers. Another line item is $5 million for the Advanced Placement Access for All program, which was created in 2021 to help more students earn college credit while in high school.
The program provides students across the state access to AP courses virtually, ultimately eliminating financial barriers and supporting student enrollment in AP coursework not currently offered at their home high school.
Over 90% of districts participate in the program, and more than 16 AP courses are offered. So far the program has seen more than 1,200 student course completions with more than 500 teachers trained for AP.
The funding increase would allow up to 5,000 students to participate in AP programming every year, Schwinn said. The department is also requesting an additional $10 million for bus transportation for summer programming.
Schwinn said the funding would ensure every Tennessee student, whether they live in a rural community or have parents with different work schedules, may attend summer school. Other line items include $18 million for Pre-K Special Education funding, $10 million for Imagination Library, $10 million for Tennessee All Corps ELA Math Networks and $5.2 million for a public broadcasting system, among others. The budget is usually presented to the General Assembly around the first week of February. Then, my colleagues and I in the General Assembly will start taking a closer look at these requests and the budget as a whole.
Passing the budget is the most important constitutional duty of the Tennessee General Assembly, and I look forward to your feedback as we begin this critical work.
Sen. Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN 37243, by calling 615-741-3100, or toll free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, or fax 615-253-0231. His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN 38462, and he may be reached at 931-796-2018, by cell phone at 931-212-8823 or by E-mail: email@example.com