Long before COVID-19 hit Tennessee, our public schools were already plagued by chronic under-funding by the state.
Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed budget includes increases for K-12, but falls far short of what the state can afford, what our schools need, and doesn’t get us out of the bottom five states for school funding.
TEA is asking all educators and public education advocates to stand with the association in demanding a significant increase in public education funding. At a time when the state surplus is soaring, there is no excuse to leave our schools starving for state funds.
“The governor’s initial budget is not the final word on state spending,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “We have an opportunity and a responsibility to educate legislators and the administration about the challenges we face because of chronic state under-funding.”
State budgets are often adjusted at the end of legislative sessions in response to new revenue data and needs. Over the first six months of this fiscal year, the state generated a record surplus of $1.1 billion, setting next year revenue increases at $1.5 billion. Expected to rise in the coming months and fill state coffers, the revenue can and should be added to the state education budget.
“Our goal over the coming weeks is to push the administration and legislators to allocate that revenue into the state education budget. We have the needs; the state has the funds. It’s time to get us out of the bottom five,” said Brown.
In the South, most state governments provide a majority of education funding. In Tennessee, the state provides well below half of K-12 expenditures. As a result, Tennessee ranks 46th in the nation on investment per student.
“It is going to take constant pressure from educators and parents back home demanding legislators do right by our students. The money is there. We don’t need a tax increase; we just need our state leaders to step up and fund our schools,” Brown said.
Stay tuned for information on how you can participate in the Week of Action aimed at increasing K-12 funding in Tennessee.