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Report on School Finance in Tennessee Is Not Guided by Research

BOULDER, CO (February 15, 2022) – A recent policy brief from the Beacon Center of Tennessee describes the state’s K-12 finance formula and makes recommendations for reform. According to a new review, however, there is little if any peer-reviewed research to support the brief’s findings. In fact, several recent studies present contradictory findings.

Professor David S. Knight of the University of Washington reviewed The Basic Education Program: How the Volunteer State’s Education Funding Formula Doesn’t Make the Grade. The brief asserts that Tennessee should replace its “resource-based” formula with a “student-based” formula more closely resembling the approach used in some other states.

The brief’s key empirical claims include the following: (a) resource-based funding models privilege resource allocation over students’ needs; (b) student-based funding models are inherently more equitable, efficient, and transparent; and (c) imposing spending regulations to control the percent of funds allocated to instruction, student support, and administration would improve student outcomes.

Professor Knight contends that little empirical work explores these issues, suggesting a need for more research in this area prior to advancing strong policy recommendations. Accordingly, he concludes that while the brief is commendable in its call to action and emphasis on equity and transparency, it provides limited actionable information. Policymakers should thus read this report with caution and pair their reading with materials that provide more nuanced perspectives.

Find the review, by David S. Knight, at:

Find The Basic Education Program: How the Volunteer State’s Education Funding Formula Doesn’t Make the Grade, written by Ron Shultis and Jason Edmonds and published by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, at:

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