Education Budget – The new 2021-2022 state budget includes over $730 million in new spending for education, including money allocated during the special session in January. This includes over $480 million on K-12 Education and over $240 million on higher education. Funding for K-12 Education includes $120 million to increase teacher salaries in the BEP, in addition to the $43 million appropriated in special session for retroactive increases beginning January 1, 2021; $62 million for annual growth and inflation in the BEP; $18.5 million each year for two years for transportation expenses for summer learning loss camps; and $1.25 million for a School Turnaround Pilot program.
Increasing Teacher Pay – A new law was passed during the Special Session on Education committed 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 increased the salary component of the BEP to raise teacher pay by 4% overall.
Teacher Pay / Rural Teachers – Legislation that I sponsored was passed in 2021 requiring 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.
BEP Funds / Hold Harmless – Legislation which holds school districts in Tennessee harmless on their Basic Education Program (BEP) funds due to COVID-19’s negative effects on student attendance was approved this year. The measure 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. The school districts can receive additional funds if their average daily attendance has increased. I was happy to sign onto this as a co-sponsor this session and see it passed.
Teacher Discipline Act – The General Assembly voted this year to enact legislation that I sponsored called the “Teacher Discipline Act” which establishes a process for local school districts to enable a teacher to remove a student who causes repeated disruptions. Once the disruptive student is disciplined, principals can use their discretion to send them back into the classroom or permanently remove the child. The measure also allows teachers to file an appeal with a school’s director or local superintendent if they disagree with that decision. The new law facilitates a better path for local directors to work with school officials to address issues impacting a disruptive student’s ability to learn.
Removal of Common Core-Aligned Materials from Tennessee Classrooms – Legislation that I sponsored prohibiting the local selection of supplemental education materials that are aligned to Common Core by schools and districts in Tennessee was approved this year. This new law guarantees the complete removal of Common Core-aligned materials from the classroom, ensuring that students will be instructed using materials aligned to standards created by and for Tennesseans.
Protecting Girls’ Sports – Tennessee legislators stood up for girls’ sports by approving legislation that I sponsored this year seeking to maintain a level playing field for female athletes. The new law protects girls’ sports by ensuring students compete in athletic competitions that correspond with their sex at birth. In 15 states across the country and Washington D.C., biological males are allowed to compete with females with no restrictions. This legislation guarantees that biological boys are not able to displace girls in competitive events which could deny outstanding female athletes scholarships, championships and the ability to compete.
School Turnaround Pilot Program — The School Turnaround Pilot Program Act was enacted in 2021 to improve student progress in struggling schools. It requires the Tennessee Department of Education to create a three-year turnaround program similar to successful models in other states. The pilot program will apply to five priority schools in Tennessee. At least one must be located in each of the state’s grand divisions. To incentivize high-quality assistance, chosen vendors will be compensated on a paid-for-performance model based on criteria developed by the department. The first part of their payment will be prorated for the duration of the program, with the second half only being awarded if the department’s criteria is met. Similar models have proven successful in other states.