- Accountability & Transparency
- Direct Funding
- District Flexibility
- Local Fiscal Capacity
- Research & Evidence
The proposed $6860 base will be subject to a 70 (state)/30 (local) split in which the 30% is split among each county based on their local fiscal capacity. The 70/30 split applies to funding generated by the base and weights but does not apply to other allocations like direct and outcomes funding and fast-growing stipends.
Note: This question is similar to our question in the TISA Analysis Tool “How will the base be calculated, revised, and adjusted for inflation and budget shifts?”
- The Commissioner shared at the K-12 Subcommittee Hearing (3/8/22) that the Tennessee General Assembly would go through appropriations and budget approval every year to address changes. Because the base is an amount per pupil, each new student in the student count is automatically funded at the base level plus weighted funding.
- Senator Yarbro (D-Nashville) proposed Senate Amendment 4 and Representative Stewart (D-Nashville) proposed House Amendment 3 to account for inflation, but the amendments were tabled and withdrawn accordingly in favor of the annual appropriations method mentioned above.
Any idea how they arrived at the precise $6860 base amount? How do we know that the base is appropriate? What’s the rationale for setting it there, rather than say, $5000, and then contributing more funding for weights? How does the proposed base amount (as a ratio of total per-pupil funding) compare to other states?
Note: This question is similar to our question in the TISA Analysis Tool “How will the base be calculated, revised, and adjusted for inflation and budget shifts?”
- TDOE’s Establishing the Base resource states they determined the base by comparing regional and Southeastern states who have student-based formulas. Additionally, the Commissioner shared at the K-12 Subcommittee Hearing (3/8/22) that they redirected all BEP funding into base except for components related to direct funding and weights and translated the 46 BEP components into 120 requirements under TISA. TDOE’s TISA FAQ states that components like salaries, materials, operation, and system supports, as well as other supports (e.g., Coordinated Student Health) are included in the base. Approved House Amendment 16859 & Senate Amendment 16479 (p. 2) both include introductory language on what is included in the base.
- A higher base and lower weights generally mean that districts would receive more similar amounts of funding, while a lower base and higher weights mean that districts would receive more differentiated funding based on their students’ needs. It is important to note that any increases or decreases to the base or weights could affect any of the other proposed funding initiatives without additional funding. TDOE states that they decided to fund a higher base to provide for basic needs and to be competitive with regional and national peers.
- TDOE states the proposed $6,860 base would give Tennessee the second-highest base amount in the southeast and the 12th-highest base in the country. However, it is important to note that the base is subject to appropriations. For more information on state comparisons, see FundEd’s national policy maps.
Do we know if the proposed base actually covers adequate numbers of teachers, counselors, social workers, RTI instructors and so on?
Note: This question is similar to our question in the TISA Analysis Tool “The TISA Press Conference referenced the $6.6B in base funding would allow Tennessee to meet nationally recommended staff ratios. How does TISA achieve this in the formula?”
- The passed TISA legislation says that the base amount includes funding for various programs and staff.
- The Commissioner shared at the K-12 Subcommittee Hearing (3/8/22) that the additional $6.6B of base funding goes to support nurses, counselors, and some for RTI. Additionally, TDOE’s TISA FAQ states there is enough money in the base to match the national recommendation for nurses and counselors.
- The Tennessee Investment in Student Achivement (TISA), similar to the Basic Education Program (BEP), is a funding allocation rather than a spending plan. While all districts with stable enrollment would see increases in formula funding amounts under TISA relative to BEP, and the funding would be more flexible under TISA than BEP (no category limits on spending with instructional/classroom/non-classroom), we can be sure that at minimum, districts will certainly not be less able to fund these staff positions under TISA than they are under BEP.
- During the the Senate Ed Subcommittee Hearing (3/14/22), Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) asked if TDOE would be willing to share the numerical calculations of everything in the base. The Commissioner shared they would. TDOE uploaded two documents, Mapping the Proposed TISA Base and Establishing the Base, but it is still subject to appropriations.
If we find that base funding does not support adequate numbers of support staff, how do we argue that the base number ought to be increased?
TDOE states the proposed $6,860 base would make Tennessee the second-highest base in the southeast behind Arkansas ($7,018) and the 12th highest base in the country. Stakeholders could advocate for a higher base, or depending on the type of support staff, a more significant Unique Learning Needs weight (ULN includes students with disabilities, English learners, characteristics of dyslexia, or identified for gifted) based on state comparisons. For more information on state comparisons, see FundEd’s national policy maps. It is important to note that the base is subject to appropriations, so advocates can still weigh in even though the TISA legislation passed.
We currently use direct certification to identify students from low-income backgrounds in the (BEP). Direct certification aims to remove additional applications for families by generating a list of students who already qualify for SNAP, TANF, or FDPIR or are experiencing homelessness, in the foster care system, migrant, or in Head Start or Even Start. However, many of those programs require applications and have existing eligibility requirements. However, states can add programs like Medicaid (TennCare) to more inclusively define students from low-income backgrounds.
- Undocumented immigrants are not currently eligible for TennCare. Districts may not ask about immigration status when students enroll, so getting a complete picture of the number of undocumented immigrants is difficult to do.
- However, states can allow districts to opt-in to a manual alternate count based on Free and Reduced Lunch Program (FRLP) forms to more inclusively capture undocumented and other under-identified student groups.
- Similar to questions under the ‘Base’ section, it is important to evaluate the base and weight allocations together.
- According to EdBuild, 36 states allocated funds in some form for individual students in poverty, 26 states for districts based on their concentrations of student poverty, 49 states for English Learners, 48 states provide funds for students with disabilities, and 37 for sparse and/or small districts. Currently, no other state has a charter-specific weight.
- See our TISA Analysis Tool with weight-specific recommendations.
If the legislation passes as amended currently, does that mean that the specific weights for the Unique Learning Needs portion (including ELs) will be set by rules from the Department of Education? How would those weights be set? Do we know what the 10 ULNs are yet?
Note: this question is similar to our question in the TISA Analysis Tool “How will English Learners be distributed across the 10 ULN weight levels?” and “How will students with disabilities be distributed across the 10 ULN weight levels? How is TDOE weighing the different identification options (e.g., IEP/services, diagnosis, time, and placement)?”
- Yes, TDOE will formally define the Unique Learning Needs (ULN) weights through rulemaking. However, TDOE released a proposed ULN Crosswalk that compares the BEP formula and the TISA formula and shares a preliminary plan for including English Learners (ELs) at funding levels 2, 4, and 5.
- Additionally, the Commissioner at the K-12 Subcommittee Hearing (3/8/22) referenced the Special Education Options Codes from the BEP Handbook (pgs 66-67), which is based on time spent on services. Funding primarily based on time does not capture cost nuances because one hour of services can cost vastly different amounts based on a teacher-to-student ratio and other factors.
- During the Senate Ed Subcommittee Hearing (3/14/22), the Commissioner stated they are excited to make changes based on best practices to the existing BEP Codes during rulemaking.
How are “characteristics of dyslexia” defined? Do students have to have an official diagnosis to qualify? Will school districts be required to specifically begin testing for Dyslexia?
- In TISA, “Characteristics of Dyslexia” references an existing law, TN Code Annotated 49-1-229. It states every district must implement dyslexia screening procedures using the existing RTI2 and universal screening process. TDOE’s TISA FAQ states that an IEP is not required for eligibility.
During the Senate Ed Subcommittee Hearing (3/14/22), the Commissioner shared that the Economically Disadvantaged weight is the largest because of subcommittee feedback and because it impacts rural and urban districts similarly. According to the TISA Press Conference (2/24/22), approximately 1 out of every 3 students would qualify for this weight.
What are the districts required to do for retention and recruitment of teachers? How will this impact teacher hiring and retention?
The TISA Budget Proposal allocates $125M annually to increase public school teachers’ salaries in FY23, which will be included in the TISA base funding. Also, there is a provision in the legislation that the Tennessee General Assembly (TNGA) can direct a portion of the annual base funding increases for salary increases for existing educators, which may positively impact retention. Additionally, the legislation directs the Tennessee State Board of Education (TNSBE) to increase the state salary schedule if such a legislative direction is made, which could positively impact hiring.
Will local capacity be calculated using revenue at the county level or school district level? How will the state ensure that local capacity equitably represents the capacity of a school district if a county has multiple school districts?
Note: This question is similar to our question in the TISA Analysis Tool “How if at all, will CBER revise their current index? How are they considering measuring fiscal capacity at the county versus district level and absolute versus relative funding models?”
- Currently, the BEP uses two measures, generally referred to as CBER and TACIR, to measure fiscal capacity, both measured at the county level. TISA directs the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee (CBER) and Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to calculate fiscal capacity based on a combined average between the two formulas. It is unclear if CBER or TACIR will shift to a district-level calculation to account for counties that contain multiple districts. For more information see the Sycamore Institute’s Fiscal Capacity 101: A Key Factor in K-12 Education Funding in Tennessee.
- Under TISA, CBER and TACIR will publish the calculation, the underlying data, and each district’s local fiscal capacity, increasing stakeholder transparency compared to the BEP.
Will TISA be more restrictive with regard to how school districts spend funds? As the formula is student-based, will there be more accountability on the district/school to show the funds being spent for that specific student?
- Student weighted funding formulas are designed to be more flexible and transparent because an individual student receives funding for resources rather than a ratio. See the question under ‘Personnel’ for more information on possible restrictions to the base funding for teacher salaries. TISA eliminates the three-category spending scheme in BEP and makes all core formula funds fully flexible across use categories.
- Under TISA, LEAs are required to submit an annual accountability report with goals, budget, student achievement, and progress.
- Additionally, any school district or public charter with D or F on State Report Card may report to State Board or appointed committee on budget and student outcomes with potential outcomes below. TNSBE will promulgate rules on the process.
- LEA completes corrective action plan, and TDOE reports to the State Board
- TDOE audits and investigates district or public charter school’s programming and spending and reports it to the State Board
- No recommended action
- Additionally, TISA sets a goal for each LEA to increase 15% towards an overall 70% 3rd-grade ELA TCAP proficiency over three years and creates a Progress Review Board that may recommend an LEA complete additional training for not meeting the goal.
- According to TDOE at the K-12 Subcommittee Hearing (3/8/22), the TISA proposal includes direct funding for K-3 students, which is aimed at literacy, but it is subject to TDOE rulemaking.
- The direct funding for rising 4th-grade literacy tutoring for students who score ‘below’ on TCAP is likely connected to the Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act from the January 2021 Special Session. This law required students who score ‘below’ and ‘approaching’ on the 3rd-grade ELA TCAP to participate in camps and/or tutoring to be promoted, but they still must demonstrate adequate growth on the 4th-grade ELA TCAP. For more information, see the TN Alliance for Equity in Education’s memo examining the retention specific elements of the law.
- Note: Approved Senate Amendment 16479 & House Amendment 16859: added students who score ‘approaching’.
TISA CTE funding includes career and technical programs that are differentiated by tier and student year but it does not reference Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment.
Eliminating the BEP review committee eliminates one of the few ways to make the program transparent. Where is the accountability of the state?
- Approved House and Senate Amendment 1 introduces a TISA Review Committee, similar to the current BEP Review Committee, which reviews TISA annually with a report and and feedback.
- TNSBE, as a result of amendments, will issue a positive, neutral, or negative recommendation on outcomes, direct, ULN weights, and rulemaking.
- The TN General Assembly can still amend the legislation in future sessions, and will need to appropriate funds annually, similar to the BEP.
- LEAs will have an opportunity to give feedback on TISA to TDOE and Comptroller.
- TDOE must competitively procure and offer TISA professional development to various stakeholders.
- Comptroller’s OREA will provide TISA report and recommendations to TNGA by 12/31/24.
- There are multiple parts of the legislation that are subject to TDOE rulemaking (e.g., Unique Learning Needs, direct funding, outcomes funding). All rulemaking must be approved by the TNGA’s Government Operations Committee.
- TDOE must convene stakeholders to advise on outcomes funding (previously used ‘may’ language in the first amendment). Approved House and Senate Amendment 1 established a more formal list of stakeholders to include.
Where is the evidence that shows this student-based funding formula is better than a resource-based funding formula?
- Currently, the BEP only allocated ~15% of its funding for high-need students.
- According to EdBuild, 40 states use a student-based funding formula, which is recommended by the organization as a best practice.
- A study from Dr. Marguerite Roza and the Georgetown University Edunomics Lab finds that districts adopt student-weighted funding formulas to increase equity (89%), flexibility (79%), and transparency (49%). However, they note that each student-based funding formula is tailored to the local context, so it is difficult to compare a formula’s impact to other contexts.
- Chamber et al. (2010) found that “for particular schooling levels, per-pupil spending became more responsive to student poverty and that the increase in responsiveness appears to have coincided with implementation of the WSF in the two districts.”
- Honig and Rainey (2012) found evidence to suggest that student-weighted funding can improve student attendance and graduation.
- Bryk et al. (2010) found that student-weighted funding enabled some schools to improve their performance when paired with other evidenced-based school improvement strategies.
See the table below. TISA is a student-based funding formula, and the BEP is a resource-based funding formula.
- Inherently responsive to changes in student demographics
- Flexible at the district and school levles
- Responsive to changes in pedagogical methods
- Calculation is clear and transparent
- Reflect a particular, frozen-in-time vision of education
- May include more limited-use funds
- Can be responsive or non-responsive to changes in student demographics, depending on design
- We currently use direct certification to identify students from low-income backgrounds in the BEP. Direct certification aims to remove additional applications for families by generating a list of students who already qualify for SNAP, TANF, or FDPIR or are experiencing homelessness, in the foster care system, migrant, or in Head Start or Even Start. However, many of those programs require applications and have existing eligibility requirements. States can add programs like Medicaid (TennCare) to more inclusively define students from low-income backgrounds.
- During the Senate Ed Subcommittee Hearing (3/14/22), Senator and Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) asked if TDOE would be willing to share the numerical calculations of everything in the base. TDOE uploaded two documents, Mapping the Proposed TISA Base and Establishing the Base, but it is still subject to appropriations.
- During the K-12 Subcommittee Hearing (3/8/22), Representative Harold Love (D-Nashville) asked for numerical clarification on Metro Nashville Public Schools’ allocation for level 5 Unique Learning Needs. TDOE shared that they will follow up on the calculation. The department posted a crosswalk document that includes a note on the student counts and assumptions informing the ULN projections.
- Using TDOE data, the Sycamore Institute found TISA is unlikely to grow the statewide total for mandatory local spending over the next decade and, compared to the BEP, could require fewer district-level increases.
Why do charter schools need more funding than LEAs? Charters get infrastructure funding through the BEP, same as LEAs.
- According to TDOE at the House K-12 Subcommittee Hearing (3/8/22), the TISA formula incorporates the Charters Facilities Fund that is currently outside of the BEP Formula, brings the Fund into the TISA formula, and is meant to provide funding to charter schools for facility costs. At the House Government Operation Committee Hearing (4/11/22), TDOE shared that the direct funding for charters would be the same amount as the current Fund.
- Note: TISA now allocates charter funding under the direct funding rather than a weight as initially proposed.