Pastors Call on Lawmakers to Take it Slow on TN School Funding Reform

Advocate Andy

Southern Christian Coalition issues plea for funding adequacy, equity

As Gov. Bill Lee's school funding reform plan - Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) - moves through the General Assembly, pastors affiliated with the Southern Christian Coalition are calling on lawmakers to slow the process and pass a final bill that adequately funds Tennessee schools.

In a statement, pastors from Nashville and Chattanooga noted the current bill would usher in privatization and could be damaging to local districts. The pastors called for a revised bill that both increases overall funding to all schools and distributes that funding equitably.

“Most Tennesseans believe that every student should have the freedom to learn and a quality education, regardless of their color, background, language they speak, or where they call home,” said Rev. Dr. Donna Whitney, whose two adult children graduated from the Metro Nashville Public Schools. “Right now, this funding formula is set up to put a dollar amount on each child’s head that follows him or her outside their zoned school. We can see that this kind of funding formula will lead to public school dollars being funneled not only into charter schools, but also to private schools in the future by means of a voucher system. Therefore, Governor Lee's TISA funding plan is neither adequate nor equitable, and while claiming to be student centered, the TISA plan now before our legislature is actually corporate centered, using students as vehicles to escort our tax dollars out of public schools and into corporate treasuries. With this plan, some districts will even be forced to raise property taxes significantly in order to compensate for the amount that the state fails to invest, and the district that will be most harmed by this funding plan is the very district my daughters graduated from, Nashville Metro Schools.”

“I call on our Legislature to adequately fund our public schools, and to invest in and care for the children of Tennessee, knowing that they are each made in the image of God,” said Rev. Laura Becker, Pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, and mother of one current student and one graduate of Hamilton County Schools. “All Tennessee students deserve the right to high quality and fully funded education that prepares them to achieve their full potential and successfully contribute to our communities and to our state. Unfortunately, Governor Lee’s proposed education funding plan called TISA doesn’t provide the funding necessary to address our teacher shortage, ensure students with special needs get the care they need, or ensure that every school has the resources they need to provide every child a quality education, so I call for a more just and equitable funding program."

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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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