Joining seven other school districts that last year sued the State of Tennessee for abdicating its constitutional duty to fund the state’s system of public education, the Nashville Metro school district last week filed a complaint seeking extra funding. The school districts’ basic claim is that the state has failed to fully fund the Basic Education Program (the “BEP”), an approach that the legislature enacted in 1992 while a previous school funding litigation was still proceeding. A BEP Review Committee periodically determines the actual costs of operating the public school system, and is supposed to ensure the equitable distribution of funds to meet these costs across the state based on school districts’ relative funding needs. Over-all, the plaintiffs in these cases claim that school districts are being underfunded by over $500 million per year.
The Nashville Metro Schools complaint emphasizes the state’s failure to fully fund the costs of providing appropriate services to English language learners ( Ells) Schools are supposed to receive additional money for each student who is a non-native English speaker. According to the Nashville complaint, their schools are being underfunded by about $3million per year in Ell funding.