The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
The Tennessee legislature gave Gov. Phil Bredesen much of what he requested in the $25.4 billion state budget for fiscal 2006, including a greatly expanded statewide prekindergarten program. But future money for pre-K and other education programs now hinges on a final court decision on whether the state will be allowed to downsize its health-care program.
Much of the state budget’s 6 percent increase, up from $24.1 billion in fiscal 2005, goes toward education programs and the TennCare program, an expanded version of Medicaid that provides health insurance and services to poor residents.
Gov. Bredesen, a Democrat, wants to restructure the 10-year-old TennCare to free up money for education and other budget priorities. He has presented a plan that would cut up to 323,000 TennCare recipients—30 percent of the 1.3 million total—but keep all children up to age 19 on the rolls as long as their family income remains below the minimum. He also wants to require TennCare recipients to pay contributions towards their health services to help alleviate the state’s costs.
Advocates for the poor are opposing that plan in state court.
The legislature approved $25 million to enact the pre-K program statewide, using excess money from the state lottery that began last year.
Overall, elementary and secondary education received $3.14 billion for fiscal 2006—a 5 percent, or $130 million, increase over 2005.