Amid huge state revenue surplus, Tennessee teachers urge Gov. Lee to go big on K-12 support

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers questions after he spoke to a joint session of the Legislature at the start of a special session on education, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE - As Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee prepares to outline his spending and policy priorities Monday during his annual State of the State address, the state's largest teachers' union is challenging the Republican to go big on education funding in the fiscal year 2022 budget he will propose.

Pointing to what she said is more than $1 billion in unanticipated state tax revenue, Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown said in an opinion piece that the state now ranks 46th nationally when it comes to investment per student.

"Our funding is so low the only neighboring state we beat is Mississippi," wrote Brown, a Grundy County teacher. "To meet Kentucky's per student investment, the state would need $2.6 billion; to match Arkansas, the increase would be $860 million; and to be on par with Alabama would require $560 million this year alone."