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Tenn. Accused of Inadequate School Funding in Districts' Lawsuit

Cross-posted from the District Dossier blog

By Denisa Superville

Seven Tennessee school districts in the Chattanooga and Hamilton County areas are suing the state, arguing that it has insufficiently funded local school districts as required by state law.

The districts contend, in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, that the state has "breached its duty under the Tennessee Constitution to provide a system of free public education for the children of this state," according to The Tennessean, quoting the complaint.

The districts—Hamilton County, Bradley County, McMinn County, Marion County, Grundy County, Coffee County and Polk County—allege that the state is not complying with what's known as Kentucky's Basic Education Program—or BEP—and that it has not provided enough funds to local districts to cover the cost of its teachers.

According to The Chattanooga Times Free Press this has resulted in a number of shortfalls, including $64 million in teachers' health insurance costs.

The districts allege that the state underestimated the cost of teachers' salaries by about $532 million and that the districts face yearly shortfalls in the classroom amounting to about $134 million, The Tennessean reports.

The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen and members of the Tennessee Board of Education.

The complaint was filed a day after state officials, including Haslam, met with several school superintendents to discuss future short- and long-term funding for the school districts. Both sides indicated that the meeting had been positive, according to the papers.

The governor had previously said that legal proceedings would make it more difficult to resolve the funding issue. 

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