A new state report from the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations states that Tennessee needs to spend more than $9 billion on its K-12 education infrastructure over the next five years to ensure that students have an access to quality learning environments and resources. This would represent an increase of nearly 9% from the previous assessment, with $3.6 billion needed for the construction of new schools, and $5.4 billion for technological advancements and renovations.

In addition, it has been reported that education was again ranked second to transportation in the inventory of unmet capital construction needs for Tennessee that is prepared by the state commission.

Chalkbeat Tennessee reported:

To keep on track, local officials reported needing to build 70 more schools across Tennessee, at an average estimated cost of $42 million each. That amount can vary widely, however, depending on the school’s size, location, and purpose. For instance, Sullivan County’s new high school cost $75 million, while a new K-8 school in Lincoln County came in at $17 million.

Rep. David Hawk, a Republican from Greeneville, said his local school district is staring at a $50 million price tag to build a new middle school in Upper East Tennessee. He added that something has got to give.

Tennessee received over $4 billion from three federal COVID relief packages, but Gov. Bill Lee and GOP leaders encouraged school districts to use at least half of their portions on programs and resources to help their students catch up academically from the pandemic.

Districts spent much of the early funds on technology upgrades like digital tablets. Some used part of their later funds to upgrade ventilation, heating, and air conditioning systems in school buildings. However, much of that spending was not captured in the latest state report, which gives a snapshot of infrastructure needs as of July 2021.

“We might see a drop in some of those areas next year,” said Tyler Carpenter, the commission’s research manager and the report’s co-author.