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Tennessee Business Roundtable Backs Governor Lee’s TISA School-Funding Plan

STEM middle school science lab partners work on biology assignment together. (Getty Images Signature/SDI Productions)
(Getty Images Signature/SDI Productions)

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Mar. 21, 2022 – The Tennessee Business Roundtable (the “Roundtable”) today announced its support for Governor Bill Lee’s Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) proposal, which seeks to replace the state’s nearly-thirty-year-old K-12 school-funding method with a transformational, student-centered formula backed by an historic $1 billion per year incremental investment in public education.

In announcing the organization’s support for TISA, Roundtable President Pat Sheehy noted that the plan’s provisions respond to several of the Tennessee business community’s strategic education priorities. “In reviewing the TISA proposal, our business leaders asked themselves, ‘Will this improve student outcomes? Will this improve equity for all Tennessee students? Will this improve Tennessee’s workforce? Is now the right time for funding reform?’ In every case, we concluded that the answer for TISA was yes,” said Sheehy.

“Taken together, we believe that TISA’s career-related policy improvements, along with Governor Lee’s proposed historic increase in aligned state education funding, will support the post-secondary success of our future workforce more directly and equitably, and better, than ever before,” Sheehy added. “That’s a major reason why the Tennessee Business Roundtable is urging lawmakers to enact it this year.”

“Education funding that prioritizes students over systems, incentivizes student outcomes, empowers and informs parents, enhances accountability, and directly and equitably supports post-secondary readiness is what every Tennessee child needs and deserves to succeed in the 21st century and beyond,” stated Roundtable Board Chair Keith Norman (Vice President, Chief Govt. Affairs & Community Relations Officer, Baptist Memorial Health Care, Memphis). “It is also what Tennessee’s business community desperately needs to secure our long-term success, and that of our state’s economy and people.”

“After months of engagement on school funding reform and weeks of discussion and analysis of the Governor’s plan, the Tennessee Business Roundtable is now confident that Governor Lee’s TISA proposal is the right approach to delivering all of those outcomes,” Norman continued. “Our Roundtable believes that now is the moment to embrace this funding reform as the next step in transforming public K-12 education for succeeding generations of Tennesseans.”

The organization’s endorsement of TISA came after three weeks of analysis, consultation and discussion of the funding-reform proposal by the Roundtable’s all-executive Education Council, following TISA’s release by the Lee Administration on February 24. From mid-November 2021 to mid-January 2022, Roundtable member and staff executives also contributed to multiple Education Funding Review Subcommittees convened by the Tennessee Department of Education. The TISA proposal reflects over 1,300 public comments submitted by state business leaders and other Tennesseans to 18 Review Subcommittees.

“Tennessee’s future business and economic success will be largely determined by our ability to prepare our children for engaged citizenship and global competitiveness,” declared Roundtable Education Council Chair David Pickler (President & CEO, Pickler Wealth Advisors, Collierville). “The TISA structure aligns public investments in direct support of student achievement in a way that’s simply not possible under Tennessee’s current, outdated school-funding model, while enhancing accountability among all responsible for delivering public education,” Pickler added. “If enacted into law, the Roundtable believes TISA will better equip our district leaders and teachers to overcome challenges which have too often impeded student success, including those posed by students’ unique learning needs as well as poverty and other inequities.”

Sheehy pointed to several TISA provisions which the Roundtable assesses will directly support the future workforce needs of Tennessee’s employers. “In proposing that the state fully and directly fund Career and Technical Education at an increased average of $5,000 per student per year, the TISA plan in our view has the potential to deliver unprecedented post-secondary readiness gains for Tennessee’s future workforce,” Sheehy said. “In addition, TISA provides for the creation of additional, state-funded, outcome-based rewards to school districts for each student who achieves third-grade reading proficiency, attains a valued or preferred industry credential, or earns a college-ready score on the ACT,” he continued. “And TISA’s increased Base funding can enable Tennessee’s middle and high schools to hire and retain more academic and career guidance counselors, which business leaders believe our students need in order to better-discover and -connect their career aptitudes and interests to their class choices,” he added. “The Roundtable believes that all of these career-connected improvements offered by TISA could be long-term game-changers for Tennessee workforce development.”


Founded in 1983, the Tennessee Business Roundtable develops and implements pro-business public policies and initiatives that optimize the quality of life and well-being of all Tennesseans. Convening senior executives and strategic thinkers representing over four dozen of Tennessee’s most-respected businesses and organizations from all three Grand Divisions of the state, the Roundtable has partnered successfully with Tennessee’s Governors and hundreds of business, non-profit and government stakeholders to create and promote policies that contribute significantly to the success of the Volunteer State’s economy and people, particularly in the area of public education. Guided by the belief that an educated, healthy populace and sound state fiscal policies are the primary drivers of Tennessee’s vibrant economy, the Roundtable brings together ideas, information and thought leaders with a view to becoming the most respected and influential policy voice for Tennessee’s business community.

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Patrick Sheehy, President

(615) 255-5877


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