A School Privatization Group has the Inside Track on Tennessee School Funding Reform

Andy Spears
3 min readJan 7, 2022

How is it that pro-privatization group TennesseeCAN already knows the benefits of Gov. Bill Lee’s new school funding formula when that formula has yet to be released?

It seems an “expert” from TennesseeCAN was on hand in Franklin County to present the details of the new, as-yet-unreleased plan.

First, a bit about TennesseeCAN as reported in the Herald-Chronicle:

TennesseeCAN, a state education advocacy organization, was founded in 2011 and formerly operated as StudentsFirst Tennessee.

The organization’s website says it pushed to enact state laws for alternative certification pathways for teachers, mutual consent in district hiring practices, creating a statewide authorizer for charter applicants, expanding enrollment for autism-spectrum-disorder programs and implementing statewide school report cards to track educational progress.

StudentsFirst, readers may recall, was the group founded by Michelle Rhee — whose ex-husband Kevin Huffman was once Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education.

Anyway, here’s how TennesseeCAN describes the new funding formula:

She said a weighted funding formula:

* Recognizes that what one school needs in resources may not be what another school needs.

* Calculates funds based on the needs of students in the schools.

* Begins with student needs then provides additional funds in the form of weighted importance on programs.

* Ties funds to student need and sets a greater expectation on the return of the investment.

* Allows schools to meet the needs of the students in real-time without waiting on additional resources from the state.

Some of this sounds not terrible. However, the devil will certainly be in the details.

Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .