Grundy County Schools, along with seven other area school systems, have filed a lawsuit in the Davidson County Chancery Court alleging the state has ‘breached its duty under the Tennessee Constitution to provide a system of free education for the children of the state.”
Named as defendants in the suit are Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell, and several Tennessee Board of Education officials.
In question? Whether or not the state has complied with Tennessee’s Basic Education Program (BEP) in providing funding for school systems. The suit states that Tennessee’s Board of Education has “instead created a system that impermissibly shifts the cost of education to local boards of education, schools, teachers, and students, resulting in substantially unequal education opportunities across the state.”
The schools systems involved in the suit say a huge funding gap exists in Tennessee schools and the General Assembly has not properly taken measures to include the cost of teachers within its funding plan. Specific areas of concern include the cost of teachers’ health insurance and the funding of classrooms. In the state’s failure to provide for the cost of health insurance for teachers, a $64 million funding gap has been created. The estimated gap in classroom costs is $134 million.
Rural and less affluent school systems are discovering the shortfall is hitting their budgets hard; many now lack the money to run their schools.
Haslam’s says he is very disappointed in filing of lawsuit. The governor’s spokesperson, David Smith, said “he (Haslam) made the commitment the day before the suit was filed to a collaborative process to work closely with districts on these issues, and litigation will obviously decrease the potential for collaboration.”
(Grundy, Marion, Coffee, Polk, McMinn, Bradley, and Hamilton counties filed the suit in the Davidson County Chancery Court on Tuesday, March 24, 2015)