Education Funding War – David vs. Goliath

Metro Pulse gives some insight on the education funding story this morning; unfortunately, it’s only half of the story. Namely, Goliath’s side.

They fail to mention that under the BEP Review Committee’s recommendations, 61.7% of all public school systems in the state would be deemed to deserve less funding. The top five winners — from millions to tens of millions — are Memphis, Shelby County, Davidson County, Hamilton County, and Knox County.

They fail to mention that every municipal school system would lose money, primarily because of the way that shared vs. unshared revenue is treated in the fiscal capacity formula. Simply speaking, cities with municipal school systems who choose to tax themselves at a higher rate in order to fund their school systems better are penalized. That loss would very likely force consolidation with county schools — a feature that many believe is the driving force behind the change.

They surely don’t mention that more than 67% of the dollar increases go to these five mammoth school systems, while some of the state’s smallest, poorest counties are left with less… places like Pickett County, with a total population of 4,999.

The data comes from TACIR’s website, and you can bring up the Excel spreadsheet by clicking here. There are several tabs, but the most relvant is a comparison of same-year (05-06) funding showing the current model, the prototype results, and the difference.

There’s no question that Tennessee needs to re-think the way it funds public education, but so long as we’re just moving money around based on the squeaky wheel principle, we’re not going to improve overall. Although one of the committee’s recommendations is a “hold harmless” provision to ensure that no system receives less than the year before, what this means is a funding freeze that denies any increases despite rising enrollment, heating costs, fuel prices, salaries, insurance, or any of the items over which local school boards have little or no control.

If the state embraces a policy that penalizes local governments for doing the right thing (funding local schools with local taxes) while rewarding those that do not, then they will surely discourage that which is in everyone’s best interest.

Food for thought: if Knox County’s tax rate was the same as Oak Ridge’s tax rate, they could easily match Oak Ridge’s per-pupil funding as well.

One Response to “Education Funding War – David vs. Goliath”

  1. on 28 Sep 2006 at 11:01 pm Citizen Netmom » BEP Review, 9/28/06

    […] Last year, the Legislature charged the BEP Review Committee with the task of developing a “consensus recommendation” for moving to a system-level fiscal capacity formula.  Last year proved conclusively that there was not, and would never be, a consensus for the TACIR prototype system-level formula developed by Harry Green, since it caused a majority of Tennessee school systems to lose money while enriching the state’s four largest cities. […]

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