NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn faced questions once again from lawmakers about Gov. Bill Lee’s education bill known as the Tennessee Invests in Student Achievement Act.
Republicans and Democrats are working to figure out what the bill means for communities across Tennessee. The questions surrounding Lee’s education legislation to remake how schools are funded in Tennessee have continued for weeks.
“Keep in mind this request to redo the funding was a local issue for years being complaints by local LEAs and teacher organizations and everybody else,” said Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga).
The TISA bill has been amended several times since being introduced and lawmakers from both parties are trying to figure out what the results could be with millions of dollars added to the new formula.
“A lot of us demand results and the only way to get a good result is a student-based funding and not an institutional-based funding where results can be hidden or beefed up,” Gardenhire said.
While Democrats are pushing back against TISA, advocating to slow down the rewrite and find consensus, Commissioner Schwinn is pushing forward.
“Shelby County is a great example, it’s an urban district that’s getting $113 million, right and so Knox County, Hamilton County getting 45, Nashville getting 45, so we’re actually seeing really strong consensus we’ve got almost every chamber of commerce who support this, our superintendents, etc., so I’m feeling really good about this being about kids,” she said.
The bill would grant a lot of authority to rulemaking which would come after the bill is passed.
“We propose rules to the state board, they provide a recommendation, and then as (Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee) Chairman (Bo) Watson said the government operations committee will make determinations on whether or not they approve our rules,” Schwinn said.
But Finance Committee Democrats like Nashville Sen. Jeff Yarbro are concerned about it.
“I’m fearful that what we’re going to do is pass this and try to fix it later,” he said.
From how teachers are factored into the new formula for salaries to the new funding structures Democrats aren’t sold on it.
“I don’t think we have a good sense of what this actually is going to mean for school finances for state finances or for district finances in the foreseeable future — it will take a lot more work for us to get our heads around it,” Yarbro said.