BEP Changes and Tennessee’s Urban Districts

From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:

“Eliminating the CDF is a part of BEP 2.0,” agreed Andy Spears, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the ins and outs of Tennessee’s school funding formula. “But full funding of 2.0 would benefit urban districts. The CDF protects urban districts now, and 2.0 would have provided recurring revenue to meet the special challenges.”

He said a “number in the $70 million range seems like a reasonable estimate of what urban districts could lose with this change.”

Frankly, the proposed changes do little to address the long-standing recommendations of the BEP Review Committee.

It’s interesting, also, that the House Majority Leader wants Haslam to focus on finding a way to fully-fund BEP 2.0, an item that Haslam’s plan takes off the table.

While Haslam’s BEP funding proposal this year increases teacher compensation dollars by 4%, to $44,430 per BEP-generated position, that’s still $5686 less than the actual weighted average salary paid to teachers by Tennessee school districts.

Additionally, the proposed changes do not address the reality that the vast majority of districts hire more teachers than the BEP formula generates. This can range from 10-25% more depending on the districts, its needs, and its local fiscal capacity. But if even the poorest districts are funding teacher positions at 10% above the BEP formula, that’s a sure indication that the current formula is inadequate. Haslam’s plan does nothing to change this.

An investment in the BEP in the $300-$500 million range would reflect a desire to achieve both adequacy and some measure of equity, but doing so would also require adjustments to the current ratios for teaching and other positions.

Moving away from BEP 2.0 and simply incrementally adjusting compensation dollars is not reflective of a serious attempt at school funding reform in Tennessee. Certainly, it’s not a demonstration of a long-term commitment to meaningful investment in schools.

For more on education politics and policy issues in Tennessee, follow @TheAndySpears

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