Bills aimed at curbing pandemic-related learning loss and boosting literacy rates are advancing through the Tennessee Legislature at a rapid pace, as lawmakers continue a week-long special session on education.
A bill to limit COVID-19-related learning loss advanced through three committees Wednesday and is scheduled to be considered in both chambers’ finance committees Thursday. SB 7002/HB 7004 would provide summer school programs for 2021 and 2022, back-to-school learning camps, a professional development program on reading instruction for teachers and a statewide tutoring corps.
The learning loss bill would cost the state more than $115 million in state funding over the next two years, part of which would come from the education lottery, according to an analysis by the fiscal review committee. The state also would use about $102 million in existing funds from the accumulated windfall of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds over the next two years and up to $3 million in federal COVID-19 education relief funding for the program.
Another proposal backed by Gov. Bill Lee, the Tennessee Literacy Success Act, advanced through the House Education 12 and Government Operations special session committees and the Senate Education on Wednesday.
Senate and House education committees also approved a bill that would require schools to administer end-of-year Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program testing, but it would suspend test-related accountability measures such as grade-letter ratings for schools assigned by the state.
“We understand again that the results will not be perfect, but it will be some sort of a guidepost as to how our children are doing in school,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, as he presented the bill to the House Education 12 Committee.
“But because of the circumstances that these tests are given in, no teacher, no student, no school should have these tests count against them in any negative way,” Lamberth said.
An appropriations bill that would provide state funding for 2% retroactive raises for teachers, as well as a separate 4% funding increase for teacher pay will be considered in House and Senate finance committees Thursday.
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