Southern Christian Coalition Calls for Funding of Local Public Schools in Tennessee

Advocate Andy

Group responds to Gov. Lee's new education funding formula

At a press event today in response to Gov. Bill Lee's proposed new school funding formula, a group of pastors affiliated with the Southern Christian Coalition called on Lee and legislative leaders to prioritize public schools in any funding formula changes. The group took issue with Lee's assertion that charter schools are public schools and specifically called out Lee's plan to open 50-100 charter schools affiliated with Michigan-based Hillsdale College.

Rev Brandon Berg, Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Bristol, led the press conference and shared that he is the spouse of a public school teacher and the parent of three children in public schools. He pointed out the annual $2 Billion shortfall of funding from the state.

“When you spend years underfunding public schools by $2 billion, (with a B) dollars every year, you can't make up for that with the plan that the governor announced earlier today. Right now, only half of our school's funding comes from the state. Half, just $5 billion out of the $10 billion needed to fund our schools. Local governments have to fund the rest to make up the difference for our state, which is why property and sales taxes continue to go up in our communities. While the state sacks away billions of dollars each year to the rainy day fund, our precious Tennessee children are left out to dry.

Berg specifically called out Lee's plan to use public money to start charter schools operated by Hillsdale College.

When Governor Lee left this morning's press conference, he seemed agitated when he said ‘Public schools are charter schools and charter schools are public schools.’ [...] I am deeply concerned that this new funding formula is just creating another way for Governor Lee's pet project of new Hillsdale Charter Schools to be started across the state, which will further deplete our local public schools from the resources they need to be successful.

Rev. Berg ended the press conference saying:

“Most of us believe that every child, whatever the color of their skin, whatever the background, whatever their zip code, has the right to learn in a supportive environment that respects their humanity, that upholds their dignity, and responds fairly to mistakes and missteps. But unfortunately, right now, Governor Lee is fueling divisions and pushing his Hillsdale charter school agenda so that he can take resources away from our local public schools."

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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