The Dickson County School Board has voted to join a coalition of school districts across the state that has been waging a 17-year legal battle to change the way state funds are allocated for education. At its June meeting, the board unanimously approved paying $4,500 in annual dues to join Tennessee School Systems for Equity, formerly known as Tennessee Small Schools for Equity. Former Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Wayne Qualls pitched joining the group to the school board in May. Membership dues are based on the number of students in the school system with a cap of $4,500, which is what the membership will cost Dickson County with over 8,000 students. Qualls said 81 of Tennessee’s 136 school districts have joined the group, but because the majority of them are the smaller districts they represent only 37 percent of the state’s student population. The group formed in the mid-1980s and successfully sued the state over its funding formula, leading to the creation of the Better Education Program, which Qualls called “the most convoluted formula in the country.” The group seeks to make education funding more equitable for smaller school districts by including per capita income as part of the calculations. Shifts in the funding formula mean the Dickson County school system stands to lose $330,000 in state funds, Qualls told the board. If per capita income is part of a revision to the formula, Qualls said Dickson County could get as much as $2.2 million more funding. Qualls said the TSSE plans to ask the Supreme Court to re-open its decision from the group’s original lawsuit instead of having to start the legal fight all over and has a war chest of $100,000 for the first step in getting back to court this year. In recommending joining the TSSE, Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks said it will give the Dickson County school system “a seat at the table” where the formula for education funding will be decided.