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New report ranks TN among bottom ten states for education funding per student

From WZTV in Nashville: A new federal census report shows Tennessee is among the bottom 10 states in the nation for education funding per student.


The report says Tennessee spends about 30 percent less on its students than the national average, spending $10,507 per student on average compared to the national average of $14,347 per student.


Tennessee spends less than every neighboring state except Mississippi.


“I think we can do better,” Nashville PROPEL Executive Director Sonya Thomas said.


Thomas says she wants the state to be more mindful in how it uses its limited resources.


“I think that we have a lot of money, but not enough accountability and not enough putting the resources that we have in the right places, ensuring our educators have the tools they need and ensuring that every student has everything they need,” Thomas said.

FOX 17 News asked Governor Bill Lee about the report following his visit to a summer school program in Sumner County.


Jackie DelPilar: “Tennessee ranks among the lowest in the nation as far as per pupil spending. Is that acceptable to you?”


“We recognized two years ago that we needed more funding, so we actually put $1 billion into the funding strategy for public schools in last year’s budget, by far the largest investment in public education this state has ever made,” Gov. Lee said.


The governor says the state has also invested $350 million more this year, and overhauled its decades-old funding model. The former Basic Education Program (BEP) model is now replaced by Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), student-based formula that goes into effect this upcoming school year.


Jackie DelPilar: “Will these investments be enough to give our students the resources they deserve?”


“The key is teachers, and we have brilliant teachers all over this state, when you look at this school, the resources in this school and what they’re doing with this school, its inspiring,” Gov. Lee said.

The new census data shows school funding from 2021 and does not factor in the state’s new funding formula.


A spokesperson with the governor’s office says the new funding formula will help boost student spending and bring the state among the highest in the region for states who use student-based formulas.


The state comptroller’s office has a new data dashboard for spending broken down by school district. To see your child’s school district, click here.