Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley August 11, 2021

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   Students start new year bolstered by new programs to accelerate learning

   We are off to a new school year!  It is always an exciting time for students to get back into the classroom as the new academic year starts.  

   Recently, Governor Lee announced the results of our Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) tests. It shows we must be very diligent this school year to make up for learning losses experienced by students during the pandemic.

   The decline in academic gains was not unexpected news due to school shutdowns and remote learning. That is why we got to work early this year to put into place the most aggressive remediation plan in the nation. Tennessee’s bold plan providing interventions for struggling students, the summer learning camps, ongoing tutoring, and early childhood literacy programs are already working to accelerate learning and close the achievement gap for the hardest hit students. It is going to be challenging, but I am optimistic that these programs will bolster student learning and help regain the momentum in progress that we have made over the past decade in Tennessee.  

   Every child deserves a world class education that gives them the keys to opportunities for success. We will continue to be aggressive in our efforts to turn the tide on the most challenging academic interruption in U.S. history. I want to wish all our students, parents and teachers a tremendously successful 2021-2022 academic year.

   In other news, the state’s Financial Accountability Group, which is responsible for overseeing federal COVID-19 recovery funds in Tennessee, announced a plan to use $500 million to boost broadband internet access. The group also said American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds will include an Infrastructure Investment Plan of $1.35 billion for sewer and water improvements.  

   According to the group, the Sewer and Water and the Broadband Program will have independent parameters, and state-local matching will be specific to each program. Sewer and Water state expenditure is expected to leverage between $219 and $438 million in local ARP spending. The Broadband Program is expected to leverage at least $125 million in local ARP and private provider spending. Local governments will be educated as to the advantages of investing in infrastructure based on their own community’s funding availability and project opportunities. 

   One of the goals of the Broadband Program is to identify remaining gaps and launch targeted investment and special initiatives to address the over 400,000 Tennesseans lacking broadband access. This is good news for many local citizens who need broadband for school, work, telemedicine and other essential needs.

   Finally, I was pleased to sign a proclamation celebrating the 65th anniversary of the official motto of the United States – “In God We Trust.”  The motto was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 30, 1956 after it was adopted by the 84th U.S. Congress. The proclamation simply celebrates that historic day with renewed faith that this nation will continue to stand on the firm foundation that has guided us as the greatest nation in the world.

   The proclamation quotes President Eisenhower who said, “Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor, an American way of life,” and President John F. Kennedy who said, “The guiding principle and prayer of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be ‘In God We Trust.’”  

   The Tennessee proclamation also points out that the motto is embedded in the national anthem and that the oath taken by federal employees includes “so help me God.” It is also etched on our money and into the walls of our most important government buildings. I was proud to support this measure and may God continue to bless America.