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Comptroller Sees Transparency Problems With Schools Funding Formula

A top state finance official calling for a rewrite of the state’s formula for funding schools says he’s unsure whether the current recipe doles out taxpayer dollars fairly.

Comptroller Justin Wilson last week asked for a revision of the state’s Basic Education Program, telling leaders of the state Education Department and legislative education committees there are too many complexities to keep spending accountable.

“I don’t know at this point whether anyone is a winner or a loser, whether the money is right or wrong. I don’t have any idea at this point, but we do want to understand why,” Wilson told TNReport. “When we’re talking about a third of the state’s budget, then we ought to know what’s happening to the money.”

The state spends some $3.8 billion, or 37 percent of its annual budget, issuing dollars to school districts based on the BEP, a school funding system written into state law that Wilson says lacks accountability and uniformity in reporting student attendance – the primary factor in how much money each school gets.

“The way the different (school districts) count the students is different. Not saying one is wrong and one is right, but they ought to be done on a consistent basis across the state.”

Wilson asked officials to consider revising the funding formula in favor of one that is “understandable, transparent and verifiable,” although he said he did not know whether the state would be able to do so in time for the 2012-13 school year.

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