A Very Bad Idea

As I explored the new General Assembly filed bills index this morning (as discussed previously), I came across one very interesting, very bad bill on education — shockingly, sponsored by the Chairmen of the House and Senate Education Committees.

Sen. Jamie Woodson (SB627) and Rep. Les Winningham (HB694) have moved to abolish the BEP Review Committee by deleting §49-1-302(a)(4)(B) from the Tennessee Code Annotated:

(B) The [State Board of Education] shall establish a review committee for the Tennessee basic education program (BEP). The committee shall include the executive director of the state board of education, the commissioner of education, the commissioner of finance and administration, the comptroller of the treasury, the director of the Tennessee advisory commission on intergovernmental relations, the chairs of the standing committees on education of the senate and house of representatives, and the director of the office of legislative budget analysis, or their designees. The board shall appoint at least one member from each of the following groups: teachers, school boards, directors of schools, county governments, municipal governments that operate LEAs, finance directors of urban school systems, finance directors of suburban school systems, and finance directors of rural school systems. The BEP review committee shall meet at least four times a year and shall regularly review the BEP components, as well as identify needed revisions, additions, or deletions to the formula. The committee shall annually review the BEP instructional positions component, taking into consideration factors including, but not limited to, total instructional salary disparity among LEAs, differences in benefits and other compensation among local education agencies, inflation, and instructional salaries in states in the southeast and other regions. The committee shall prepare an annual report on the BEP and shall provide such report, on or before November 1 of each year, to the governor, the state board of education, and the select oversight committee on education. This report shall include recommendations on needed revisions, additions, and deletions to the formula as well as an analysis of instructional salary disparity among LEAs;

The BEP Review Committee is comprised of a group deliberately specified to ensure that every point of view is represented, and their mission is to provide knowledgeable guidance on keeping the education funding formula current and effective. For example, if the average cost of textbooks doubles, that funding component should double as well.

As chairmen of the education committees, Sen. Woodson and Rep. Winningham both sit on the BEP Review Committee. This year, the committee focused exhaustively on whether to recommend a change in the fiscal capacity formula from the present 95-county model to a system-level model (several were discussed). Sen. Woodson, seeming to represent Knox County more so than her position as chair of the Education Committee, was adamantly in support of the TACIR system-level prototype that greatly benefited the four, large urban systems, but caused 67% of the school systems in the state to lose funding. It would cost Oak Ridge a staggering $2.2M.

At their final meeting on January 25, the committee admitted that they could not reach consensus on a system-level funding model, but issued a resolution urging the General Assembly to consider fiscal capacity as part of a larger discussion on adequacy. If state funding for education were adequate, equity would be a much lesser (and more easily addressable) problem.

Sen. Woodson didn’t like the outcome, so she’s moving to abolish the committee.

Jamie Woodson is a bright, capable, competent woman, but I’m gravely disappointed in her actions with regard to the BEP. As a State Senator, she is elected to represent Knox County and does so very well; as Chair of the Senate Education Committee and the corresponding seat on the BEP Review Committee, however, she is supposed to represent the interests of education in general.

I consider this bill — along with her arguments for a formula that is harmful to more than it helps — an utter failure in that regard.

3 thoughts on “A Very Bad Idea

  1. I attended most of the IDEA hearing several years ago. The artist formerly known as Hagood was on the panel. When she spoke, she gave verbatim quotes from the Internet. I don’t think she had a single original thought. Apparently you just need to send her links to different websites to get her to see things your way.

  2. Pingback: Citizen Netmom » Falsely Accused

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