Governor offers billions in education initiatives

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee delivered his fourth state of the state address Monday and presented budget and legislative priorities to a joint session of the General Assembly.

“Tennessee is a beacon for the rest of the country on how we can change lives when we control the size of government, prioritize efficiency, and make smart, responsible investments,” Lee said. “I’m proud to offer America at its best budget and policies that empower freedom, innovation, exceptionalism and optimism.”

The proposed $52.6 billion budget includes strategic investments in education, transportation infrastructure, law enforcement, rural communities, and more.

K-12 Education

  • Commit to developing an updated funding formula for K-12 education
  • $750 million recurring increase for new K-12 education funding formula

Since the new formula will not begin until FY24, these funds will be used in FY23 for: CTE upgrades to all high schools and colleges ($500 million), relocation of 14 public schools out of floodplains ($200 million) and the GIVE and SPARC grants ($50 million).

  • Propose a new law that will ensure parents know what materials are available to students in their libraries
  • Propose new legislation to make computer science and coding accessible to all Tennessee high school students.
  • $2.5 million to expand the Future Workforce Initiative
  • Formalized a partnership with Hillsdale College to expand their approach to civics and K-12 education in Tennessee
  • $124.7 million to provide a well-deserved raise to the teacher salary pool
  • $25.5 million in recurring funding to continue the success of summer learning camps
  • $16 million recurring and $16 million non-recurring to the Charter Schools Facility Fund to increase the number of high-quality charter schools

Higher Education

  • $90 million to fully fund the results-based formula, allowing for a zero percent tuition increase for public universities
  • $200 million for investments in TCAT infrastructure to help double the skilled workforce by 2026
  • $72 million to complete the Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, a partnership with the University of Tennessee to invest in data science and technology, advanced materials, and results-based applications
  • $6 million to establish the Institute of American Civics at the University of Tennessee
  • $50 million to a Carnegie R1 research fund at the University of Memphis, supplemented by private donors, to maintain the University’s R1 designation
  • $250 million in infrastructure improvements at Tennessee State University to alleviate life safety issues and help improve buildings on college and student campuses
  • $170 million to invest in a statewide enterprise resource system for the University of Tennessee and locally operated institutions, enabling more streamlined access to information aimed at better serving students in contexts 21st century education
  • $75.2 million to increase the 4-year HOPE award to $5,100 per student, per year, and the 2-year HOPE award to $3,200 per student, per year
  • 4% increase in payroll for higher education employees to ensure they attract and retain the best employee base possible

Safe and Secure Tennessee

  • Added 100 highway patrolmen, 20 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents, and 25 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation forensic personnel
  • Lead the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to create a plan so that every place of worship in Tennessee can receive high quality security training
  • $355.6 million for a multi-agency law enforcement training academy
  • $28.4 million to fully fund salary changes for correctional officers
  • $66 million for the TN Law Enforcement Hiring, Training, and Recruitment program
  • $179 million to complete full construction of Tennessee’s Advanced Communications Network coverage, ensuring full mobile connectivity throughout Tennessee for emergency communications and law enforcement
  • $150 million to create the Violent Crime Intervention Grant Fund

Rural Tennessee

  • $82 million to reimburse public hospitals for unpaid care, mostly in rural communities
  • $26 million for Rural Opportunity Grants, helping prepare communities for business investment
  • $55 million to increase access to services in each of the Medicaid Pathways to Independence programs

Healthy Tennessee

  • $25.5 million to provide adult dental benefits to 610,000 TennCare-eligible Tennessees
  • $11.8 million for a multi-year commitment to recruit and retain dental providers and provide much-needed dental care for prosthodontic services
  • $18.6 million to attract more than 150 new primary care residents
  • $7 million for clinical addiction treatment and addiction recovery programs

Support families

  • Expand TennCare’s Health Starts initiative to further focus on maternal health and holistic care for mothers and children
  • Increase funding for caregiver placements for children in foster care
  • Establish a child care support program for all foster families, regardless of DHS eligibility

Infrastructure modernization

  • $619 million to accelerate projects listed in the IMPROVE Act and invest in transportation projects to ensure economic opportunities
  • $3.5 million to support the Transportation Equity Fund
  • $4M to Improve Trash Cleanup on Tennessee Highways

Growing Tennessee

  • $103 million for the FastTrack program, ensuring the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has the tools it needs to recruit and retain the best companies to locate in Tennessee
  • Formalize a long-term strategy to develop the Clinch River nuclear site

Beautiful Tennessee

  • $40 million to invest in environmental cleanup, including National Priority List sites
  • $28 million to eliminate deferred maintenance backlog at state parks
  • $25 million for West TN River Basin projects

This is a proposed budget that will need to be approved by legislators through the legislative process.

Tennessee is among the least indebted states in the nation and is ranked number one in the country for long-term fiscal responsibility by US News and World Report.

Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald.

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