June 15, 2020
The 111th General Assembly plans to conclude their business this week by passing a revised state budget and voting on remaining critical legislation. Many of the proposed policy changes being discussed before the March recess will not make it through the legislative process this year given the challenging economic situation and the focus on health and safety during this pandemic.
Last Thursday, the Senate passed a revised state budget. Senate Majority Leader Johnson stated that 2002 was the last year that a General Assembly contemplated two budgets in a single session. The sudden shift in economic outlook after COVID-19 required addressing a $500 million revenue shortfall to close out the current 2020 budget and a $1 billion deficit in the next year. The good news, he said, was that the state was in a strong fiscal position going into this storm.
The House will take up the budget in Finance Committee and the floor this week. The revised budget removes the increases in education funding that the Governor initially proposed but does fully fund the Basic Education Program, or BEP. This formula distributes state education dollars to Tennessee schools.
As legislators wrap up their reconvening, now more than ever, their commitment to student success must not waiver. During these challenging economic times, we must prioritize funding for public education, so that districts can focus on making the right decisions for student learning and safety.
Funding for education comes from local, state, and federal dollars. TN Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn testified to Congress last week about additional funds schools need to re-open safely. Watch her full testimony here.
To see action taken last week on education bills, click here.
The State’s Economic Recovery Group continues to provide guidance for Tennesseans through the Tennessee Pledge initiative. The most recent change from last week is new visitation guidelines for long-term care facilities to keep those individuals safe and healthy. Find more information on those parameters here. Davidson County remains in Phase 2 with no projected Phase 3 date as coronavirus numbers trend upward.
COVID-19 has disrupted much of the normal way of life, especially in the education space with the way students learn and receive instruction. Tennessee educators and district staff have adapted and found strategies to help students succeed in these unchartered territories. For students to continue to improve and grow, they must have accurate academic check-ins to serve as a measuring tool so teachers can support their growth and learning.
Last week, the Tennessee Department of Education announced free, optional, high-quality assessment tools available for all school districts this fall. These innovative assessment supports will help schools identify student progress in light of school closures this spring as a result of COVID-19. Aligned assessments are vital in aiding student growth and improvement, which will help them succeed in a 21st-century economy. To learn more about these optional assessments, click here.
Metro Nashville city leaders released a plan last week for the re-opening of Nashville schools in the fall with guidelines and protocols to help keep Tennessee kids safe and healthy. The plan’s recommendations have minimum guidelines based on three levels of community spread: No spread to minimal spread (Phase 4), minimal to moderate spread (Phase 3), and significant spread (Phase 2).
According to MNPS, each district school, organization, or district will develop its own individual implementation plans for operating under the three recommendations outlined. A more detailed re-opening plan will be released the week of July 6th. Check out the full Nashville Plan here.
As the 111th General Assembly begins to come to a close, it’s inevitable that members transition into new seasons and retire. This session, three education committee members are retiring and we’d like to honor them for their contributions to Tennessee students.
Thank you, Chair Dolores Gresham, Speaker Pro-Tem Bill Dunn, and Chair Jim Coley, for your prioritization of education and your consistent leadership.
View the full Tennessee General Assembly’s schedule here.