The House Democrat Review is a weekly feature that gives Tennesseans an in-depth look at what our Democratic state legislators have been working on this week, and a glimpse into what’s planned for the coming week at our state house.
House Democrats Bring Home Schools First Funding, nearly $184 million in additional K-12 funds expected next year.
This week House Democrats were presented with the 2008 – 2009 projected BEP 2.0 funding numbers which show that, thanks to the Schools First Initiative passed last year, Tennessee’s local schools are estimated to receive $183.2 million in additional funding.
“When we first began the task of improving our K-12 schools in Tennessee, we wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t put undo burdens on local governments,” said Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington). “Thanks to the Schools First Initiative, we were able to increase education funding by over $340 million last year and nearly $184 million this year, while at the same time reducing the pressure on counties to have to raise their property taxes.”
The projected funding numbers are expected to increase average teacher salaries to $39,000, while the burden on local governments to raise property taxes will continue to be reduced. The total percentage of instructional cost contributed to local school systems by the state will increase next year to 71.5%.
“Thanks to the hard work and effort of legislators, on both sides of the aisle, we were able to pass new legislation that allows lower and middle class students the opportunity to see improvements in their local schools,” said House Education Chairman Les Winningham (D-Huntsville). “We must continue to improve our public education system here in Tennessee, so that every child in our state has a chance at the best education possible.”
Expanding Pre-K to All Children in Tennessee Continues to be a Priority
In addition to increasing K-12 funding by over $340 million, lawmakers last year also added over $25 million for additional pre-kindergarten classrooms, raising the total number of classrooms across the state to 934. Currently over 17,000 students are enrolled in pre-K programs in Tennessee, and this year the House plans to expand classes even further with another $25 million in funding, offering pre-K instruction to all of the over 78,000 four-year-olds in Tennessee.
“We expanded college education through the Tennessee Lottery Hope Scholarship, we continue to expand funding for K-12 schools and this year we hope to give every child in Tennessee, regardless of background, the opportunity to get off on the right foot with pre-K,” said Winningham. “Education is the foundation of a successful life in this country and I will continue to strive to make sure a quality education is available to every student and family in Tennessee.”
The House Education Committee is scheduled to discuss education funding later next week.