In this time of coronavirus, TEA’s first priority is to ensure every educator working when school buildings closed will have their positions in the coming school year. Every teacher and support personnel is critical for students. The association has worked at the state, national and local level for the funding needed to overcome revenue and budget challenges caused by the pandemic.
The state budget that was passed late Thursday night has an increase in K-12 funding, including BEP growth, teacher insurance dollars, and teacher salary equity money. TEA’s push for a teacher bonus was adopted by the House, but was not kept in the final budget. Increases in K-12 state spending totals nearly $90 million while the overall state budget was cut $1 billion.
Importantly, $210 million in direct aid for counties and cities was included in the final state budget. These funds are to be distributed to local governments quickly to backfill revenue shortfalls caused by the economic downturn of the virus. Every dollar of these funds can be used to support school budgets, and local governments must make school funding the priority with these dollars.
After strong lobbying by NEA, $323 million in CARES Act dollars was allocated for Tennessee schools, and $260 million has already been received by school systems across the state.
TEA’s initial calculations show state and federal funding aid and increases for each Tennessee school system should be sufficient to fund all positions, keep benefit costs level, and provide funding for added nurses and counselors, possible pay increases and the costs of reopening schools safely and effectively.
With the close of the General Assembly, our organizing focus now shifts to local budgets and the best use of funds to support students and hard-working educators.