Under the new state budget and Tennessee schools funding plan approved by lawmakers, Hamilton County Schools will receive $47 million more for students in fiscal year 2024.
Gov. Bill Lee signed a funding bill called the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act, into law Monday. The Senate passed the bill last month, and it was approved by the General Assembly last week.
"This is a historic day for public education. This is a historic day for children in Tennessee," Lee said during a news conference Monday.
The funding model is "student based," meaning it focuses needs of each individual student, according to a Tennessee Department of Education news release.
It will add an initial, one-time $250 million in educational spending statewide starting this fall, Department of Education officials said, along with $750 million in recurring funds that will be dispersed in fiscal years 2023 and 2024.
The student-weighted formula starts at a base amount of $6,860 per student. It then includes additional weighted funding for unique individual student needs, like those who are low-income or have a disability. The formula also allocates direct funds to support areas like early literacy, career and technical education programming, one-on-one tutoring and charter schools.
Under the new formula, Hamilton County Schools is projected to receive $397 million in fiscal year 2024, $47 million more than the $350 million the system will receive this academic year, according to state Department of Education projections.
Of the $397 million, an estimated $40 million will be allocated to the district's nearly 15,000 students with special needs and just more than $27 million will support economically disadvantaged students. In total, Hamilton County Schools may receive around $9,000 per student.
School system Superintendent Justin Robertson declined an interview request but said in a statement that the new formula would better consider each individual student in Hamilton County.
"TISA is a student-based budgeting formula, which approaches district funding through a more student-centric lens," Robertson said. "For Hamilton County Schools, this means that the individual criteria of the students that we serve each year are considered when determining the amount of money the state allocates to educate our students.
"While we do not know many of the specific rules around the funding formula yet, as those will be determined by the TDOE [Tennessee Department of Education] and State Board of Education in rule-making process throughout the next year, we will always support the consideration of all students and their unique needs when allocating district-level funding."
The new formula equalizes access to resources for all students, according to a Department of Education explainer.
The old school funding formula had four major funding categories: instruction, benefits, classroom and non-classroom each made up of separate components. The formula did not prescribe specific expenditures for each component.
The funding to educate the same student was different for every school. The new formula's $6,860 base amount eliminates this problem, according to the explainer.
It also marks Tennessee as having the 12th highest base funding in the country and the second-highest in the Southeast, according to data compiled from EdBuild, an organization that researches education funding, and the Education Commission of the States, an education policy consultation resource. In the southeast, Arkansas ranks No.1 at $7,018 per pupil.
The Hamilton County Schools Board of Education has yet to approve a fiscal year 2022-23 budget as it awaits its final state allocations. The district is projected to receive anywhere between $184 million and $188 million.