- This spring, lawmakers approved a new way for how the state funds K-12 education
- The new formula, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement, allocates funding per pupil
- Schools can receive additional funding for students with unique learning needs, like dyslexia
- The state Department of Education is tasked with flushing out some of the provisions of the law
Tennessee school districts could receive additional state funding for some students who test among the lowest 40% in literacy under proposed state rules for Tennessee’s new school funding formula.
The Tennessee Department of Education released proposed rules for the state’s new school funding formula, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act, Monday. The rulemaking process is the next step in enacting the new law, which was hustled through this year’s legislative session by Gov. Bill Lee.
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The proposed rules lay out definitions for students who are eligible for additional weights, or funding, in the new student-centered funding formula, including what students are considered economically-disadvantaged or have unique learning needs.
The rules also define what school districts might be considered fast-growing and thus eligible for infrastructure stipends, or what districts are considered “sparse.”
Students exhibiting “characteristics of dyslexia” are one of ten subgroups of students with unique learning needs that can earn their district additional funding on top of the $6,860 per pupil funding laid out in the new plan.
But the proposed definition for those students under TISA varies from how state law and the TN Dyslexia Guide currently defines students with dyslexia, longtime disability rights advocate Anna Thorsen said.
Under the proposed TISA rules, students in grades K-3 who test below the 40th percentile on a universal screener, or test used to assess students reading skills; display deficits in at least three areas including phonemic awareness and alphabet sounds and has an approved individualized learning plan could qualify for 20% additional funding.
But this definition is confusing, Thorsen said. And the Tennessee Dyslexia Advisory Council, which is prescribed by law to inform the education department on all things related to dyslexia, wasn’t asked to participate in the rulemaking process.
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On Monday night, Thorsen told other members of the advisory council in an email that she was worried the proposed rules “are much more restrictive than the law,” could create barriers for students to receive services and “create massive red-tape” for districts.
Many education advocates and even members of the 18 subcommittees that helped inform last fall’s funding review process weren’t aware the proposed rules would be released Monday. Thorsen served on the Students with Disabilities and Gifted Students Subcommittee and said she hadn’t been given the opportunity to weigh in on draft rules yet.
The department said in a news release Monday that it will collect public feedback and input on the proposed rules “in alignment with last fall’s funding review process.”
The public comment period opened Monday and will continue through August 2, 2022.
An additional opportunity to provide public comment will also be available during a rulemaking hearing, but details regarding the hearing weren’t available Monday.
You can check out the proposed rules online at www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/education/legal/TISA_Rules_Final_Draft-6-6-2022.pdf.
Public comments should be e-mailed to [email protected] or mailed to:
Tennessee Department of Education, Andrew Johnson Tower, 9th Floor,
710 James Robertson Pkwy, Nashville, TN 37243
ATTN: TISA Rules
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Meghan Mangrum covers education for the USA TODAY Network — Tennessee. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.