Despite some setbacks, Governor Bill Lee’s new education investment plan is on track.
Governor Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement” is the state’s new proposal to allocate pre-student money. But Republicans and Democrats are divided over the long-term impact of the enormous reform.
The ‘TISA’ discussion is set to heat up in the 112th General Assembly’s final weeks.
Cameron Sexton, the Republican House Speaker, said that “it’s going to take a long discussion. The committee members want to take their time and have discussions — there was an amendment that was abandoned earlier this week for the administration. They needed time to look over that.”
Democrats are urging the majority party and the governor’s office to take a breather in the face of rapid change.
Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), chair of the caucus’ education funding study committee, said, “some things Bill Lee and some of our colleagues across the aisle are talking about sound good, but they’re not in the bill, and they’re not funded in the bill, and they’re not funded through any other channels.”
After four years, the state will return to a 70-30 financial split, where the state will pay 70 percent and local governments are responsible for 30 percent, and the local costs will rise. What Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer doesn’t see at this moment.
That over time they will catch up—usually by 2030 for most counties—but we’re keeping them safe for the first four years.” Senator Bo Watson stated that he was unaware of how much more expensive the bill would be in the local area because of the increased travel costs.
However, at a committee hearing, the Commissioner for Education conceded that adding millions of dollars to the formula would raise share expenses in the long run.
Furthermore, Governor Lee could not guarantee that local taxes would not rise in the future.
Lee explained that because of the additional cash, the state won’t be obliged to raise taxes in the near future. “What happens in the future is obviously their decision about other spending and how they make judgments about taxes,” Lee added.
For Democrats, this is a long-term solution that puts a load on local districts.
It’s inevitable that local governments will be forced to raise taxes because of the way things are now structured, Clemmons said.
The Department of Education states that if additional money is added to the BEP formula, 25 districts will have to raise taxes.