Haslam appoints task force on education funding

With the appointment of a task force to look at the Basic Education Program — the state's funding mechanism for schools — any BEP changes will likely be put off until the next legislative session and after elections.

The release:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the creation of a task force to study the Basic Education Program (BEP), which is the state’s funding formula for K-12 schools.

The most recent revision to the BEP, known as BEP 2.0, was adopted in 2007. The formula takes factors such as local property and sales tax revenue into account when calculating how much money Tennessee school districts will receive from the state each year. A number of districts, both large and small, have raised questions and concerns about the formula and whether it distributes funds in a fair and equitable manner.

“The last significant revision of the BEP was seven years ago, and education in Tennessee has changed a lot since then,” Haslam said. “It is the appropriate time to take a fresh look at the formula, identify strengths and weaknesses and determine whether or not changes should be made.”

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman will chair the task force, and members will include:

* Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville), chairman, House Education Committee

* David Connor, executive director, Tennessee County Services Association

* Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville), chairman, Senate Education Committee

* Chris Henson, chief financial officer, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools

* Kevin Krushenski, research analyst, Tennessee Municipal League

* Larry Martin, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration

* Gary Nixon, executive director, State Board of Education

* Larry Ridings, Tennessee School Systems for Equity

* Lynnisse Roehrich-Patrick, executive director, Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations

* Justin Wilson, Comptroller of the Treasury

* Mark Cate, chief of staff, Governor’s Office   (ex officio member)

“We want to make sure we are distributing funds in the right way,” Huffman said. “This task force will look at the distribution of available resources in a responsible manner.”

The task force will meet over the course of this year and will make recommendations to the governor by the end of the year.

Metro school board member Will Pinkston tells Post Politics, however, that changing the formula isn't necessarily the issue.

"They seem to be stuck on talking about equity, or how the pie is divided," Pinkston said. "When you look at the resolutions that have been passed by school boards over the last few weeks, we're really talking about adequacy, or the amount of money that's in the system overall. By nearly everyone's admission, the BEP is underfunded. The first step should be to fund what we've got. Then folks can figure out whether the pie is being split fairly."

Pinkston and other members of CLASS (Coalition of Large School Systems) met in the fall to discuss BEP, charters and what they perceive as long-term problems with the formula.