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Written by Curtis Johnson
Nashville, TN – This week in Nashville, the first meeting of the legislative task force on opioid and prescription drug abuse kicked off in Nashville, with stakeholders from across the state coming to the Legislative Plaza to speak out about Tennessee’s growing drug epidemic.
The task force was created this month by House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) with the immediate goal of working on legislation and determining best strategies for tackling Tennessee’s opioid problems. Tennessee is consistently ranked at the top of the charts nationally with regards to prescription drug abuse.In 2015, 1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses, the highest annual number in the state’s history. In addition, the number of babies born who have been chronically exposed to opioids is high, particularly in East Tennessee.
The Tennessee Department of Health reports that from 2000 to 2012, the rate of babies born with exposure increased 15 fold.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that prescription opioid abuse has a total economic burden of $78.5 billion per year in the United States. There is an estimated $7.7 billion criminal justice cost across the country.
The first meeting saw testimony from different perspectives. Dr. Danny Davis of Clarksville shared his personal tragedy of losing his daughter to opioid addiction. Mr. Jeremy Kane of EdCom spoke of the importance of educating women of child-bearing age on birth control to prevent the birth of babies born addicted. Ms. Karen Pershing, executive director of Knoxville’s Metro Drug Coalition told of some of their successes and challenges.
Dr. Mitchell Mutter from the Department of Health made a presentation on how the problem is growing and help is needed at the local level. Knoxville Chief of Police David Rausch shared experiences of dealing with pill mills and the difficulty in prosecuting those who overprescribe opioids. Lastly, Judge Duane Slone spoke of his personal experiences and the difficulties in getting drug abusers who are trying to kick the habit out of their destructive environments.
The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 16th, at 10:00am in room 16 in the Legislative Plaza.
WKRN-Channel 2 did a report about our Task Force and the challenges we face in solving this problem.
Austin Peay’s Board Takes One Step Closer In Becoming A Reality
The House Education Administration & Planning Committee Approved House Joint Resolution 47 which would confirm the appointment of the members of the Board for Austin Peay State University. The Resolution is scheduled to be voted on by the full House on Monday night, February 13th.
The Governor appointed the following people to serve on this board:
State’s new BEP Calculator makes Tennessee’s education funding more transparent and understandable
State Comptroller Justin Wilson appeared before the Senate Education Committee this week to explain his new educational tool that helps legislators, educators, stakeholders and citizens understand the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP). The BEP, which provides education funding to K-12 public schools, represents a huge portion of the state budget totaling nearly $4.4 billion for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
For years, the BEP has been calculated by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) without any way to verify the results. However, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has created a method to independently calculate and verify the BEP called the BEP calculator. The purpose is to make Tennessee’s very complicated education funding formula as transparent and understandable as possible.
The Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) has reconstructed the entire BEP calculation from scratch using input data for student enrollment, unit costs, and other factors. Details and dollar amounts for every school district in Tennessee can now be viewed and downloaded from the Comptroller’s website. Users can even create their own scenarios using different inputs – teacher salaries, insurance premiums, etc. – to see how fiscal changes impact BEP allocations. The Comptroller has also created an interactive map where interested persons can easily view of snapshots of essential BEP facts and figures for each of Tennessee’s 141 school districts.
The Comptroller’s independent calculation of the BEP found the Department of Education’s formula for fiscal year 2016-2017 was off by less than one one-hundredth of a percent. TDOE has indicated it will address the points the Comptroller’s Office identified for revision in fiscal year 2017-2018.
In addition to money used to fund the formula, growth funding and teacher salary equity funds are included in the BEP appropriation:
Any unspent BEP funds revert to the General Fund at the end of the fiscal year. In fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15, approximately $7.6 million and $6.9 million reverted, respectively.
Rep. Curtis Johnson
For more information about the Tennessee General Assembly, check our website at www.capitol.tn.gov
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