April 13, 2021
At a press conference on Monday, Governor Bill Lee discussed the more than $4.5 billion Tennessee school districts will receive from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund and urged school districts to ensure the funding goes directly toward student achievement.
“By using these funds wisely and returning to in-person learning, we have the opportunity to set our students up for decades of success,” said Gov. Lee. “I appreciate the General Assembly passing common-sense provisions that ensure we stay focused on progress, not punishment as teachers, schools and districts get back on their feet after serious disruption.”
In an op-ed last week, TSS CEO Adam Lister called for similar precision and accountability in how school districts use the massive influx of federal dollars for K-12 education.
“As I wrote last week, it is imperative that every single action taken and every single dollar spent puts students first, and we are glad Governor Lee is showing leadership and setting high expectations for how these federal dollars should be spent,” said Lister. “As Commissioner Schwinn and Gov. Lee said today, every dollar should be spent directly on student achievement and building the public education system our children deserve at an accelerated rate. With nearly an extra full year of state funding being placed in the hands of our local schools, accountability and demonstrative advances in student improvements must be the cornerstone of our goal to become the top state in education.”
The Senate Education Committee finished its business for the legislative session last Wednesday, absent a call to re-open by Chairman Kelsey. Prior to closing, however, the committee passed TSS-supported SB1240 (Sen. Crowe), which directs the Department of Education to provide career and technical education opportunities for students in middle school. The House companion, HB1446 (Rep. Hicks), was also favorably voted out of the House Education Instruction Committee. The committee also delayed consideration until 2022 of SB1324 (Sen. Hensley), which was filed as a caption bill, but based on the House amendments sought to revise the teacher evaluation system in Tennessee. The House companion, HB1407 (Rep. Haston), was likewise rolled to 2022 in the House K-12 Subcommittee.
This week, TSS and partners will be reviewing the administration’s amendment to its proposed budget, which was released on Tuesday morning. Specifically, TSS is supportive of inclusion of the charter school facilities funding line item and the governor’s broadband initiative. Additionally, TSS will be watching HB1591 (Chairman White), which generally clarifies that an appeal of a mandatory retention in third grade based on a student’s scores on the ELA portion of the student’s TCAP test must be filed by the student’s parent or guardian. TSS has flagged the bill for close monitoring due to its overbroad caption that could open up the public chapters legislation passed during the special session.
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