5 Things Equity Advocates Should Know About… Governor Lee’s 2023 State of the State Address
Watch the 2023 State of the State Address recording.
Read the Fiscal Year 2023-24 Budget Overview and Full Budget.
1. Governor Lee continued his commitment to support career and technical education, proposing $1 billion for Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs).
With a proposed $1 billion investment in Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs), Governor Lee shared his plans to continue developing the system governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents. TCATs serve as an important economic development arm of the state, providing students with opportunities to quickly develop skills, receive a credential, and enter the workforce. Amidst concerns over long TCAT waitlists and growing enrollment demand, this investment would expand and improve upon the existing 16 TCATs, replace seven outdated facilities, and build six brand new TCATs across Tennessee. With incoming developments like Ford’s new Blue Oval City project in West Tennessee, this historic proposal will provide more students with opportunities to develop in-demand, valuable skills in the workforce.
2. Amid heightened concerns about school safety, Governor Lee continues to focus on increasing law enforcement presence.
Governor Lee announced a mix of recurring and non-recurring funding amounting to $30 million for a School Safety Initiative to fund a Homeland Security agent in every county and 200 additional School Resource Officers (SROs). The initiative prioritizes increasing law enforcement presence in schools, even though research has shown that SRO presence does not reduce school shootings and may increase exclusionary discipline rates, especially for students of color. He also proposed another $30 million to hire 100 more Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers. This budget proposal comes in the wake of a large push for school safety that included his School Safety Toolkit but also expanded gun access and SRO positions, increasing the presence of guns in and around schools. He also launched the SafeTN app, which allows anyone – not only students, families, and school staff – to report “suspicious behavior.”
3. As part of the annual budgeting process, Governor Lee’s proposed budget includes a $350 million allocation to TISA, the new state funding formula, $125M of which districts must allocate for teacher salaries.
During the 2022 Legislative Session, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act, which is set to go into effect this coming fiscal and school year 2023-2024. As part of its design, TISA is a distribution method that instructs the State on how to allocate state dollars to districts for public education. As a result, the Governor’s budget provides $350 million in recurring funding for the implementation of the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) formula, $125 million of which districts must use for teacher salaries. The rest of the funding is largely up to districts’ discretion on how to allocate to schools and spend it. However, it is still unclear what the base funding and other critical projections will be in the first year of TISA. The Tennessee Department of Education shared in a Tennessee General Assembly Government Operations Committee meeting on January 30th, 2023 that districts will receive projections sometime after February 15th.
4. Governor Lee allocated an additional $70.8 million in funding to expand interventions created in the 2021 Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act.
During the 2021 Special Session, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act aimed at addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education. Many stakeholders, from superintendents to community organizations, are discussing the 3rd and 4th-grade ELA TCAP retention provision, and its significant impact on students from low-income backgrounds, of color, with disabilities, and English learners. As a result, legislators have proposed numerous bills revising the law. The law also outlines multiple student interventions, including summer camps and tutoring. Some interventions are tied to retention, including the summer learning loss bridge camp and the Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps (TN ALL Corps) tutoring program. $60.8 million of this budget item will provide recurring funding for administration legislation for extending summer learning camps across the state and $10 million is proposed for bus transportation. Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Johnson and House Majority Leader Lamberth currently have a bill to expand the short-term summer camps to annual programs and the definition for students prioritized for participation.
5. Governor Lee’s proposed budget includes several nods to education in rural counties, including an expansion of the Ayers Foundation Scholars Program.
His budget proposes $10 million for the Governor’s Rural Education Foundation, a partnership with the Ayers Foundation Scholar’s Program to expand their college counseling model to more rural counties. They currently serve 21 high schools, providing counseling services before and through college. Last year, the state provided $5 million in recurring funds to the Rural Education Foundation, which began in 2021. On the higher education side, last year’s budget included non-recurring funds of $10 million for Supporting Postsecondary Access in Rural Communities (SPARC) grants for districts to purchase Career & Technical Education (CTE) equipment and $40 million for the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) grants, which largely go to economically distressed counties. Tennessee’s number of distressed counties has fallen from 15 to 10 since 2020. However, Tennessee still has 32 economically at-risk counties, all but one of which are rural counties, based on the TISA definition of sparsity.
- When will districts receive their TISA projections for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year?
- Will the summer learning camp funds be distributed based on student proficiency levels and students prioritized for participation based on need?
- How will the Governor’s Office and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security evaluate whether proposed school safety measures improve students’ physical security and mental health? Will they evaluate whether the SafeTN app leads to disproportionate reporting for people of color due to implicit bias and racial profiling?