TISA Endorsement

Two elementary aged girls sit at desk and color

As you may know, over the past several months, the Tennessee General Assembly has been considering a bill that would overhaul the state’s public school funding formula. The bill, known as TISA (Tennessee Investment in Students Act), would replace the Basic Education Program (BEP), which has been in place for 30 years. TDC has been extensively engaged in advocacy around TISA, including participation in the Tennessee Alliance for Equity in Education, the Students with Special Needs subcommittee and the Ed Trust’s TISA “rapid response” team, as well as direct engagement with lawmakers and substantial research and analysis of the legislation and its potential implications. 

TISA is not a perfect piece of legislation; we have concerns about how the Department of Education plans to define Unique Learning Needs (ULN), the extent of rulemaking necessary in this bill, the codification of the size of the weights for students with disabilities and the lack of outcome funding and incentivization for improving the achievement of students with disabilities.

However, the legislation, as it is currently written, would be far better for students with disabilities than the BEP. The weights for students with disabilities are generous, and demonstrate the recognition that we need more resources for these students. TISA is far easier to comprehend for parents and families, which conveys a level of transparency and accountability not found in the BEP. Finally, TISA injects an additional $1 billion into the public school funding pot, which would help improve upon our bottom-10 in the nation spending position. This funding can go towards reducing special education caseloads, hiring and retaining more support staff, purchasing specialized curriculum and equipment and staffing schools with more psychologists, counselors, interventionists, nurses, social workers, specialists and therapists. 

After much analysis and discussion, we have determined that, for students with disabilities, the benefits of TISA outweigh the impact of our concerns. With this conclusion, we have agreed to sign on to the Tennessee Alliance for Equity in Education’s TISA endorsement statement. 

We will continue to engage lawmakers, the Department of Education and other allies and advocates on TISA. If/when TISA is signed into law, there will be an extensive “rulemaking” process, in which we will have the opportunity to impact the definitions used to assign ULN weights, the outcomes that TISA will incentivize and numerous other aspects of the legislation’s implementation. TDC will also be releasing content to support public engagement during the potential rulemaking process, including TISA explainers and analysis, talking points and assistance with submitting public comment. 

Please feel free to reach out to me with questions or comment: jeff_s@tndisability.org. 

Below you’ll find a few informational resources about TISA:
The Ed Trust TN – TISA Analysis
Funding for Student Success – the state’s TISA website
Department of Education – TISA “explainer resources”
The Sycamore Institute – TISA 101
The Sycamore Institute – How Does TISA Affect School Districts’ Local Funding Requirements?
Chalkbeat TN – Tennessee Governor’s Education Funding Plan Lands Major Endorsement