A lawsuit by the school boards of Hamilton County and six other area counties over Tennessee's Basic Education Program, the public school funding formula, should be dismissed, argues Kevin Steiling, deputy attorney general at the Tennessee attorney general's office.
The state had until Friday to respond to the school systems' suit. Steiling filed a 32-page memorandum in Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville that says the local school districts' lawsuit relies on a "profoundly flawed interpretation" of three successful previous lawsuits against the BEP and should be "dismissed in its entirety."
The lawsuit claims the state doesn't provide enough funding for numerous expenses, including teacher pay and health insurance. The state underestimates by about $10,000 what teachers are actually paid, the lawsuit says, and the state pays only for 10 months of teachers' 12 months of insurance.
Scott Bennett, the attorney for the Hamilton County Department of Education and the other county school districts that filed suit -- Bradley, Coffee, Grundy, Marion, McMinn and Polk -- declined to comment since litigation has begun.
The state's attorney wrote that the local school districts were wrong in taking their complaints about lack of funding to the court system.
"The ... school boards do a difficult job in overseeing and conducting the day-to-day education of schoolchildren in their districts," Steiling wrote. "But these pleas for more funding are not properly directed to the courts of Tennessee -- they must be directed to the General Assembly."
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