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Board of Education talks TISA

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 1/10/23

The Bedford County Board of Education discussed the state’s new TISA (Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement) funding formula at Thursday night’s study session. The new formula is …

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Board of Education talks TISA

The Bedford County Board of Education discussed the state’s new TISA (Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement) funding formula at Thursday night’s study session. The new formula is set to begin on July 1.  
The goal of the discussion was to go over new definitions as well as surmise how much funding Bedford County qualifies for. Superintendent Tammy Garrett said the $10 million extra dollars the county is expected to receive with TISA shows “our students have a lot of needs.”
That’s because the new funding formula is based off of student needs. There are 10 Unique Learning Needs (ULNs) that the state has identified; they are based on dyslexia, special needs, and English language learners.
“This is a totally different funding model. We went from BEP [Better Education Plan] being a resource-based model to this being a student-based model,” said Garrett. “TISA is a funding plan, not a spending plan.”
Essentially, the more students a school system has who fit into these ULN categories, the more funding the school system receives.  
On the surface, some argue, it looks like schools are paid to have students fit into those learning categories. According to Garrett, this was a view many legislators discussed before TISA legislation passed last year.  
However, the formula allows for incentives or “outcome bonuses” that encourage student growth. For instance, Garrett said there’s a potential to give teachers monetary bonuses with these outcome bonuses if growth goals are met.  
Schools will also be heavily “tracked,” according to Garrett. while oversight will be much more “intense.”
And students who are considered dyslexic must have a medical diagnosis, Garrett said.
Funding per student  
Starting out, each school across the state will automatically receive $6,860 per student. Students who meet the requirements from those 10 special learning categories can only fall into four categories max. Based on each category, the student will receive more funding.
For example, a student receiving special education consultation will receive an additional 15% of the $6,860 for a total of $7,889. Garrett said the most a student can receive from four categories is around $20,000.  
Because of this immense amount of data required for funding, Garrett said the state recommends school systems hire data analysts.More responsibility would also fall on the EIS (Education Information System) to ensure all the data is keyed in correctly. Garrett said they may have to look into paying those in these positions more.  
What Bedford qualifies for
According to the funding model, Bedford is considered a “sparse district,” meaning there are less than 25 students per square mile.  
Bedford also has “concentrated poverty,” so the funding provides an additional 5% for Title I school students. Garrett said all of Bedford’s schools—except the three high schools, the Cascade schools, and Thomas Magnet—are considered Title I.  
The school system will receive these “weighted allocations” for the economically disadvantaged, concentrated poverty, and sparse distribution.  
“If you think about our population in Bedford County, it makes sense why we’re getting an additional $10 million,” said Assistant Superintendent Tim Harwell.  
But there is also a “fast growth stipend,” given if the student population grows by at least 1.25% in a year. The system could also receive infrastructure funding if they grow over 2% each year for three consecutive years. According to Garrett, Bedford is on-track to receiving that kind of funding as the school system grows by more than 2% each year.  
Fiscal capacity
Essentially, the state puts everyone’s money together. The state covers 70%, while the school systems across the state cover 30%. That 30% is distributed across the state to where, essentially, the richer school systems (based on TASSR [Tennessee Association for Student Success and Retention]) pay more.
However, this local contribution is based on a system’s “fiscal capacity.”  
That is, Bedford doesn’t “have to pay a lot because of our fiscal capacity,” said Garrett. “The only thing that would cost us to have to start paying more is if you get richer. If you’re per capita incomes starts going up, you’re going to be required to pay more.”
However, there will be no increase in what Bedford has to pay for the next three to five years, according to Garrett.
Board member Shanna Boyette asked what would happen after that moratorium.  Garrett said all they’ve heard is that it all depends on the fiscal capacity.  
This new funding formula, according to Harwell, has three goals: third grade reading retention, readiness, and gap closure.  
Schools will also receive more funding to support CTE classes and student completion in courses that are considered “high wage, high demand.”  
“Our system will get money per student based on how involved they are in the CTE programs and what kind of CTE programs are offered,” said Harwell.
Garrett said, “So if you think about the TISA goals when you look at the TISA rules everything is going to relate back to either third grade reading retention, readiness, and gap closure.”