March 15, 2021
The Tennessee General Assembly is in session and legislators are hard at work. Here are a few education-related items we are keeping an eye on for the work week of March 15-19, 2021.
This afternoon, the House will vote on HB308, legislation to extend the Tennessee Public Charter Schools Commission to June 30, 2023.
The Senate Education committee did not get to SB414, otherwise known as the SEM Advancement Act, last week. It has been scheduled for a committee vote this week. TSS supports the bill, which requires a local board of education or public charter school governing body to develop and adopt an academic acceleration policy for the enrollment of students in grades 7-12 into any available advanced English language arts, mathematics, or science courses. The bill gives the local board or governing body the flexibility to incorporate additional criteria for enrollment, brings parents into the process through related notification and accountability for enrollment and disenrollment from the program, all while giving our 7-12 grade students more options to support their academic growth. The House companion, HB973, passed out of the Education Instruction Committee last week. It next goes to the Government Operations Committee.
The Senate Education Committee will also hear SB1156, sponsored by Education Chairman Senator Brian Kelsey, this week. The bill itself ensures that a third grade retention appeal is parent-led. The bill caption, however, is problematic, because it opens up all of the legislation that passed during special session. There is some concern that the bill could spiral out of control in the House, where members are eager to influence legislation that passed during special session. TSS will oppose any subsequent amendment to special session legislation.
TSS is also watching SB455 by Senator Bell, which is on the Senate Education calendar this week. The bill was filed as a caption but rumors indicate that the amendment, which has not been made available yet, will specifically authorize for-profit charter schools. TSS will review amendment language and take a position accordingly.
In the House, the K-12 Subcommittee has scheduled HB1334 by Rep. Baum for a hearing tomorrow. TSS will oppose the amendment on the bill, which seeks a special approval status to issue educator licenses without having to go through the State Board’s approval, review, or public reporting requirements. TSS supports the board’s education preparation standards, which are designed to ensure Tennessee educators are prepared to teach on day one in the classroom.
The Education Instruction Subcommittee will hear HB1535 by Rep. Weaver, which prohibits teachers from using supplemental materials not approved by the state board. TSS has concerns with this bill, as it will likely inhibit the teacher’s ability to be responsive to day-to-day student needs. The Department of Education is working with the sponsor but expects the bill to have a hefty fiscal note, which will likely mean that it will not move forward in the committee process. The committee will also consider HB745 by Rep. Haston, which creates the “Tennessee Work Ready Opportunity Program” to assess and certify individuals’ career readiness using nationally recognized assessments. TSS is supportive of this bill.