State Rep. Kelly Keisling: Capitol Hill Review
New K-12 education funding formula prioritizes students’ individual needs
Members of the General Assembly this week got their first look at Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to modernize how the state provides money for Tennessee’s K-12 public schools.
Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn officially unveiled the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) on Thursday, Feb. 24 to replace the state’s current Basic Education Program (BEP) created in 1992.
The proposal, House Bill 2143, establishes the TISA as a new funding model that prioritizes the individual needs of students above all else rather than relying on ratio components and district averages. The plan puts direct focus on students with disabilities, students in rural and urban areas and low-income families.
Beginning with the 2023-24 school year, the TISA would invest an estimated $9 billion in education, of which includes $1 billion in new recurring dollars and $750 million in one-time funds this year.
According to the legislation, no districts will receive less funding than they would have under the BEP. Most districts will see substantial increases with the exact dollar amount depending on the student population being served. Districts with higher-need students will receive larger funding increases.
“The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement formula will be a powerful tool the state can use to ensure we are putting all students on a path to success,” Lee said. “By serving our students well and giving the public greater insight into how their tax dollars are supporting students, the TISA represents an exciting opportunity to improve educational outcomes, strengthen our workforce and propel Tennessee forward.”
The TISA is a four-tiered funding formula made of the following components:
Base funding: Schools will receive a base dollar amount of $6,860 per student. The base will include all items currently funded in the BEP as well as additional money for nurses, counselors, Response to Intervention programs and technology.
Weights: In addition to $6,860, TISA will provide extra funds based on student need. Urban and rural students will see increased benefits under the formula. The weights act as a multiplier and include:
Economically disadvantaged (25%) and concentration of poverty (5%)
Public charter schools (4%)
Sparse districts (5%) and small districts (5%)
Unique learning needs—special education/gifted, English learners, and dyslexia (15%-150%)
Direct funding: This is intended to provide additional dollars for high impact programs such as K-3 literacy efforts, 4th grade tutoring, Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses and standardized tests for college admissions such as the American College Test (ACT).
Outcomes: Additional dollars will be allocated as an incentive for producing strong student outcomes. The metrics will be set by the Tennessee Department of Education each year, but will include things like 3rd grade reading proficiency, ACT performance and industry credentials.
How $9 billion breaks down in the budget:
Base funding - $6.6 billion or $6,860 per student
Weights - $1.8 billion to address specific student needs
Direct funding - $376 million for support programs like tutoring
Outcomes - $100 million in outcomes funding to be awarded based on achievement
The TISA will provide additional funding based on student achievement outcomes and fast-growing districts (2 percent student growth compared to the previous year) which would be reviewed and calculated annually.
State and local governments will split the costs of the base and weights of the formula. The state will pay 70 percent and locals will pay 30 percent.
The TISA addresses teacher pay raises. When the General Assembly allocates money for teacher raises, those dollars will be added to the base funding and will be restricted for existing educators as measured by individuals who are currently evaluated.
For more about the TISA, visit: FundingforStudentSuccess.org.
Republican bills aim to increase transparency, oversight of educational materials
Three bills aimed at increasing oversight and transparency of educational materials in Tennessee public schools advanced through subcommittees this week.
House Bill 2154, also known as the Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022, would require local education agencies and public charter schools to adopt a policy for developing and reviewing school library collections that include factors such as the age and maturity of students. The legislation would also require a procedure to receive and evaluate feedback about materials in the library as well as periodically review materials in the collection. A current list of materials in each school’s library collection must also be posted on the school’s website.
“Our goal in general in education is to have parents, teachers, students and administration within different communities to all be working together to make sure our children get a great education,” Majority Leader William Lamberth, R Portland, said in the House K-12 Subcommittee on Tuesday. “Part of that is making sure the materials in the library at school are appropriate for the age level and maturity level of the children that are accessing those materials, and that they are helpful to them receiving a great education. We don’t have a process like this in place right now.”
The bill would still allow local school boards and public charter schools to decide what is best for the students in their own communities, Lamberth added.
The Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022 now heads to the full House K-12 Subcommittee for consideration. If approved, the legislation would take effect beginning with the 2022-23 school year. More information about House Bill 2154 can be found here.
Members of the House Education Instruction Subcommittee advanced two additional bills this week aimed at increasing transparency and oversight of instructional materials and literature used in public schools. The legislation includes:
House Bill 2666, as amended, would require the state’s textbook and instructional materials quality commission to identify and remove all materials contained within public schools and public charter schools that are harmful to minors as defined by existing state law. The commission would also have the authority to review new books and other new materials made available in the libraries of those schools to ensure they are “appropriate for the age and maturity levels” of students and that they align with the educational mission of each school. The legislation will now head to the full House Education Instruction Committee for consideration. More information about the bill can be found here.
House Bill 1723 would allow a parent or legal guardian of a student to check out from their school one set of the instructional materials used in the student's classroom for a period of no less than 48 hours to allow time to review the materials. The materials could also be made available online. The legislation will now go to the full House Education Instruction Committee for consideration. More information about the bill can be found here.
House Bill 1944 would prohibit a local education agency or public charter school from allowing obscene material or materials harmful to minors to be available to students in school. House Bill 1944 was presented in Criminal Justice Subcommittee this week and is expected to be taken back up by the committee on March 2. Information about House Bill 1944 can be found here.
Republicans host ‘Spend a Day in My Wheels’ challenge at state capitol
House Republicans took part in the Team ALeX “Spend a Day in My Wheels” wheelchair challenge on Wednesday, Feb. 23.
The event, organized by State Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, challenged the bipartisan group of 14 lawmakers in all to spend their workday in a wheelchair. The goal was to help make the world more inclusive by raising awareness about the difficulties that individuals who use assistive mobility devices regularly face.
“This experience has given me a better understanding of the challenges that individuals with disabilities have to overcome every day,” Boyd said. “Everything from opening doors to navigating around my office became more difficult when I was in a wheelchair. I appreciate my colleagues for participating in this effort to raise awareness about the importance of accessibility for everyone.”
“Spend a Day in My Wheels” was the idea of 16-year-old Alex Johnson, a tenth grader at Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, who approached Boyd about hosting the challenge with some of his colleagues in the General Assembly. The first event was held on Capitol Hill in 2020.
A rare skeletal disorder left Johnson dependent on a walker before later confining him to a wheelchair in elementary school. He developed the idea for the challenge while in fifth grade as a way to help his classmates experience the world from his perspective.
The Permobil Foundation in Lebanon partnered with Team ALeX to provide wheelchairs for the challenge.
Republican members of the Tennessee House of Representatives who participated in the event included: State Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, State Rep. Rebecca Alexander, R-Jonesborough, State Rep. Rush Bricken, R-Tullahoma, State Rep. Michele Carringer, R-Knoxville, State Rep. Tandy Darby, R-Greenfield, State Rep. Rusty Grills, R-Newbern, State Rep. Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, State Rep. Chris Hurt, R-Halls, State Rep. Chris Todd, R-Madison County and State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville.
Bill would ensure students are taught virtues of capitalism, constitutional republic form of government
Republican legislation to ensure that students are taught about the benefits of America’s founding principles as part of their social studies curriculum advanced out of the House Education Instruction Subcommittee this week.
House Bill 2742 would require that high school students in Tennessee be taught about the virtues of capitalism and the constitutional republic form of government as compared to other political and economic systems such as communism and socialism.
“We understand that the job of educators is to teach accurate, unbiased material to students,” State Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, told members of the subcommittee. “The objective of this bill is not to force a specific ideology on students, but to teach them our founding principles.”
The legislation now moves to the full House Education Instruction Committee for additional discussion and debate. More information about House Bill 2742 can be found here.
‘Noah’s Law’ could help missing children be found faster
Republican legislation that could allow for an Amber Alert to be issued sooner in certain cases advanced out of the House Children & Family Affairs Subcommittee this week.
House Bill 2354, also known as Noah’s Law, would allow a custodial parent to seek a court order declaring their child to be in imminent danger if the child’s noncustodial parent fails to return them in accordance with a current visitation order or parenting plan. The legislation, which could allow for an Amber Alert to be issued sooner, would apply to cases involving pending custody, parentage, child support or dependency and neglect proceedings in court.
“Noah’s Law (will) assist law enforcement in making sure we use every tool in the tool box, including the criteria under the Amber Alert, to make sure we find every child that is missing,” House Majority Whip Johnny Garrett, R Goodlettsville, told members of the subcommittee Wednesday.
The bill is named after Sumner County resident Noah Clare, 3, who went missing after his noncustodial father failed to return the child to his mother following a scheduled visitation last year. The child was later found safe in California after a more than week-long multi-state manhunt in November. His family has pushed for changes to the Amber Alert process after it took more than a week for an alert to be issued in his case.
The legislation now heads to the House Children & Family Affairs Committee for consideration. More information about House Bill 2354 can be found here.
Kelly Keisling serves as State Representative for House District 38 which encompasses Macon, Clay, Pickett, Scott, and part of Fentress Counties.