New details about one of Gov. Bill Lee’s education initiatives are raising some eyebrows in the legislature.
Lee recently announced his plan to create a $250 million K-12 mental health trust fund.
During his State of the State address Monday, Lee said the $250 million dollars will better support the mental health needs of Tennessee students. But his speech did not mention that the amount going directly to go school districts would be significantly less.
Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter told lawmakers Tuesday the state has a different plan.
“We want to get that into the market to start earning interests,” McWhorter said.
Although there is a risk to investing, McWhorter said the state expects to get between 3% to 6% in yearly returns.
Democrats have already raised some questions on the issue. So has Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald. He thinks the state should consider doing something else.
“Why not just seek what we need and then put the money in the budget every year?” Hohenwald asked during a Senate hearing. “Because it sounds like we are only going to have $8 to $10 million dollars of the trust fund to spend every year.”
But the Lee administration says this one-time investment will benefit the state in the long run, because it dedicates money for mental health.
Talking to reporters Wednesday, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said the investment signals that this is a priority for the governor. She said the first step for this initiative is conducting a needs assessment across the school districts.
“Teachers have been very clear that this is what they want,” Schwinn said. “I feel very strongly both as a parent and a commissioner.”