- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam met Monday with representatives of the school districts in Tennessee’s four largest cities to discuss their grievances about state funding and told them that he’s working on short-term and long-term plans to address their concerns.

Haslam is hoping to avert a lawsuit seeking to direct more funding to urban areas.

“We’re going to be proactive about … trying to see what are those things from the funding side that can affect better outcomes,” the Republican governor told reporters following the meeting. He was accompanied by Education Commissioner Candice McQueen and the four representatives spoke to reporters following the meeting.

“My strong view is there are some short-term things we can do, but that this is primarily a longer term question.”

Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville have argued that the state’s funding formula is not adequately funded, and they’re considering litigation against the state. The school districts in those cities represent about 30 percent of the state’s 1 million students.

Haslam appointed a task force last year to study the Basic Education Program, the school districts’ funding formula. Last month, he announced in his State of the State address that he’s putting $44 million into the program.

The program hasn’t been fully funded since it was overhauled about eight years ago under then-Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Haslam and McQueen didn’t elaborate on their plans, but said they plan to talk to other superintendents across the state to find out their funding concerns.

“We’re in a strategic planning process in the Department of Education at this point anyway, so it seems like it’s good timing,” McQueen said. “We have the BEP task force at an interim stage, and we’re moving with a strategic plan.”

The district representatives said they’d like to see the administration’s plans play out before taking legal action.

“I think the process that he suggested, along with the new commissioner, certainly we should give that some time before we start talking about lawsuits,” said Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

Metro Nashville Schools Superintendent Jesse Register agreed.

“I feel like legal action is the wrong direction now,” he said. “I think we need to continue a collaborative effort. We’re moving in the right direction.”

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