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State law sets the elementary school per-pupil ratio at 20 students per teacher.

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Pinkston said the Bredesen administration recognized the BEP as a policy that needed to be updated regularly. They say the state is underfunding the BEP and placing a disproportionate burden on local governments to pick up the slack. The litigation is adequacy litigation not equity litigation. There are moments when the pendulum will swing too far in favor of rural systems as it relates to how money is distributed.

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Pinkston said the Bredesen administration updated the formula at the end of its term in with the expectation that future administrations would continue to step to meet the obligation of the so-called BEP 2. The necessity of school nurses became clear during the pandemic, but the BEP only funds school nurses across the state, while districts employ 1, The gap in each of these areas is made up by local school districts that must pay the difference.

Keeping our eyes on the volunteer state

The issue now is the entire system is woefully underfunded. Getty Images. After a series of competing filings, Lyle ruled in September that the small school districts could in fact the lawsuit as plaintiffs. A critical argument made by plaintiffs in the case is that state leaders have failed to recommend adjustments to the BEP formula recommended by the BEP review committee, on which Henson serves, to for factors like classroom ratios.

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The lawsuit was finally headed for trial in October, until an unexpected twist: Republican lawmakers sought to remove Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle because of their disagreement with her ruling last year allowing all voters to request an absentee ballot during the COVID pandemic. It was unclear in initial filings if the small schools would formally the lawsuit or merely file briefs in support of the plaintiff districts.

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Numerous other states have dismissed similar adequacy claims on justiciability grounds. Tennessee districts employed 11, more instructional positions than the BEP funds, as well as an additional 1, assistant principals. The Tennessean reported in that Pinkston convened stakeholders from across the state to discuss the possibility of such litigation, though he feared at the time the small school districts would stay on the sideline and leave the large urban school districts to lead the fight.

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Education funding in tn reaches breaking point as bep lawsuit advances

In a memo filed in support of an earlier motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the state claimed that a trial would be lengthy and expensive — perhaps several months long. A key argument made by the state in objecting to claims that more should be committed to education is that advocates are effectively demanding a blank check.

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The debate over increasing education funding has ratcheted up in recent weeks with grassroots groups, including the Nashville Public Education Foundation and the League of Women Voters in Tennessee, ing the push for dedicating more money to the BEP. At stake is hundreds of millions of dollars annually in Tennessee, which routinely ranks among the bottom states in the nation for education spending per pupil.

We have more special education students than many districts… because we have such a high property tax and are considered to have a high fiscal capacity, the burden is falling on us at the local level to make up that difference. The current BEP lawsuit has been an odyssey.

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As a result of the push to remove her, which failed, Lyle recused herself from the BEP lawsuit. Whether the case continues on track for trial or not, the state has laid the legal foundation for appeals to the mostly-Republican appeals court system that the lawsuit should be dismissed. While those lawsuits stem from how the proverbial education funding pie is divided up, the most recent lawsuit is over the issue over adequacy.

It is yet to be determined if the October trial date will remain on track. Last week, the League of Women Voters of Tennessee also ed the chorus of those pushing for better education funding.

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In a series of filings during the nearly six years of litigation, attorneys for the state have repeatedly argued that the lawsuit originally brought by Shelby County and MNPS should be dismissed because those districts are not suing over the equitability of the BEP, but over its adequacy.

Will Pinkston, the former Nashville school board member and policy adviser to former Gov. Phil Bredesen, played a critical role in the decision by MNPS to sue the state over education funding. Because Nashville has such a high property tax and are considered to have a high fiscal capacity, the burden is falling on us at the local level to make up that difference. It was a major development since Shelby County and MNPS had been going it alone in their lawsuit originally filed in The Tennessee School Systems for Equity represents 84 small school districts across the state.

But local school districts, especially in Nashville and Memphis where the cost of living is higher than rural parts of the state, are paying ificantly more than that.

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The small school districts explained their decision in an initial complaint filed a few weeks later. Independent watchdog groups seem to agree. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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Tennessee routinely ranks among the bottom states in the nation for education funding per pupil and plaintiffs in the lawsuit say all public school systems, regardless of size, are inadequately funded. Related News Analysis: Education stakeholders fear Gov. Lee will… by Nate Rau January 27, Inside a bruising battle over a new charter school… by Nate Rau June 3, State house races in Districts show at least one flip by Lucas Brooks November 2, The issue is nuanced.

And the Tennessee Supreme Court has indicated, at least for teacher salaries, that the judiciary has no role in determining the level of funding for public education. When the small schools sought toattorneys for the state fought tooth and nail, throwing down a legal gauntlet to try to keep them out of the lawsuit. The genesis of the BEP was in fact a lawsuit filed by the small school districts in the s over the equity of education funding.

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By: Nate Rau - March 25, am. During his career at The Tennessean and The City Paper, he covered the music industry and Metro government and won praise for hard-hitting series on concussions in youth sports and deaths at a Tennessee drug rehabilitation center. Originally filed inthe case has been gridlocked in recent months in a contentious discovery phase, including the depositions of public officials and a bevy of document requests.

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She said the issue is especially vital in Nashville, where the district educates a high percentage of students who require additional resources. These inadequacies create dire consequences for the districts. In this month alone, influential nonprofit the Nashville Public Education Foundation released research outlining how inadequate funding is impacting MNPS and advocating for more money. The entry of the Tennessee School Systems for Equity, or small schools association as it is commonly referred to, was a legal battle unto itself.

But, there are clues available for how much more state dollars should be dedicated. But, local districts are often forced to hire more teachers in one school to compensate for disproportionate enrollment.