Town hall answers questions about new Tennessee education funding formula

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Election Day is right around the corner, and on Wednesday afternoon, a number of Shelby County leaders held a town hall to give a better explanation of the state’s new education funding formula.

It’s a formula that hasn’t been updated in more than 30 years, so there were a number of questions.

The biggest concern is how students in the Memphis-Shelby County School district could be impacted.

Dozens of parents and community members showed up at Southwest Tennessee Community College in Whitehaven. They got a full overview and presentation on how the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement, or TISA, program will work going into the 2023 school year.

“With the change in education formula funding, it’s really important for not only parents to know what’s happening, but also students, administrators, community stakeholders like myself. When Nashville comes to Memphis, it’s important that we show up,” said attendee Theryn C. Bond.

TISA directly impacts Tennessee’s public school districts, and stakeholders had questions about how the funding will follow each student and about the impact on the Education Savings Account (ESA), the state’s new voucher program.

READ MORE: Sign-up begins for controversial Tennessee school voucher program

One woman asked, “How will the voucher program, will it impact this funding at all?”

“It doesn’t. Those are two distinct laws. This funding formula does not drive additional funding for the ESA program. The only change that’s relevant to this bill is BEP (basic education program) was changed to TISA,” responded Charlie Bufalino, the assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education.

Bond said she would’ve liked to see more people in attendance, but she’s glad those who did show up were able to get their questions answered.

“We need resources. We need funding. We need things to happen in this system, and the only way to do that is to remain present here,” she said.

Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), who hosted the town hall, said there would be more open forums in the near future on other topics that impact the people in Shelby County.