State Board finalizes $200 million increase for Tennessee education

The State Board of Education on Friday finalized $4.35 billion in funding allocations to Tennessee’s K-12 districts for the 2016-17 school year, an increase of $200 million from last year.

In accordance with Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed budget, the legislature approved a state budget that includes the largest-ever increase in Tennessee education spending unaccompanied by a tax increase. The boosts are for teacher salaries, health insurance, English language learner supports, and technology.

Still, the state’s projections for how much districts should spend on education under its Basic Education Program often are far below what they actually spend. For Shelby County Schools, for instance, the state says the cost to adequately educate students should be $875 million, almost $100 million less than for what the district is budgeting.

Disagreements over how much the state should contribute to educate its students is at the heart of two lawsuits filed last year — one by Shelby County Schools and the other by Hamilton County Schools and six surrounding districts. Last month, the school board for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools voted to take the state to court too over funding.

Earlier this month, the state answered the Shelby County School suit by defending its funding formula known as the BEP. That formula, the state said, “affords substantially equal educational opportunities to all students in Tennessee.”