Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd: Session Highlights

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   Special Session / Tennessee Literacy Success Act – Public Chapter 3 targets literacy skills to get students on track in the early grades, so they can become proficient readers by 3rd grade. It calls for LEAs and public charter schools to use foundational literacy skills instruction with a phonics-based approach for early reading instruction and establishes a reading screener to identify when a student needs help before third grade, so they won’t fall behind. This includes help with dyslexia screening and other testing requirements. In addition, it provides literacy preparation programs and training for teachers to improve the next generation of K-3 reading teachers. 

   Increasing Teacher Pay –Public Chapter 4 passed during the Special Session on Education commits over $42.8 million to increase the salary component of the Basic Education Program (BEP) by 2%. These funds provided an immediate pay increase for teachers retroactive to January 1st. It is in addition to the 2% raise in 2021-2022 appropriations bill, which increases the salary component of the BEP to raise teacher pay by 4% overall. 

   Teacher Pay / Rural Teachers – HB0865 requires the State Board of Education to increase the minimum salary on the state salary schedule by the same percentage as any increase in funds made to the instructional component of the Basic Education Program (BEP). By doing so, it will ensure that the lowest paid teachers within Tennessee will receive the raises. Signed by Governor on May 25th. 

   BEP Funds / Hold Harmless – Public Chapter 398 requires that a Local Education Agency’s (LEA) BEP funds for the 2021-2022 school year to not be less than the LEA’s BEP calculation for the 2020-2021 school year due to the negative effects of COVID-19 on average daily attendance, which drives the formula. The school districts can receive additional funds if their average daily attendance has increased. 

   Mental Health Trust Fund / Student Supports –HB0073 allocates $250 million for a Mental Health Trust Fund and lays out a framework for how these dollars can be invested now and utilized long-term. It places $225 million into an endowment account to fund future needs, with the remaining $25 million to be used immediately for a statewide needs assessment. The assessment will better determine what the needs are at the local level and what student supports would work best. These funds are in addition to $17.8 million for Mental Health and Family Resource Centers that will be coming into Tennessee from federal coronavirus funds to support student mental health needs. (Johnson, Haile / Enrolled and Ready for Signatures)

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov.

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