Governor Lee Has ‘High Expectations’ For Education Funding In Tennessee

Photo: Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn visiting Coles Ferry Elementary in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Photo Credit: Tennessee Department of Education / Facebook

Published April 13, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

On Monday, Governor Bill Lee let the state of Tennessee know about his high expectations for federal education funding. Lee, Commissioner Penny Schwinn, and members of the General Assembly have asked for school districts across the state to put this funding toward student achievement.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Nearly $4.5 billion has been given to the state of Tennessee as a Covid relief package specifically to benefit K-12 education.

Governor Lee said, “By using these funds wisely and returning to in-person learning, we have the opportunity to set our students up for decades of success. I appreciate the General Assembly passing common-sense provisions that ensure we stay focused on progress, not punishment as teachers, schools and districts get back on their feet after serious disruption.”

Some of the priority areas schools are asked to focus on are early reading, student readiness including ACT prep, K-12 mental health support, and teacher recruitment.

While the funding will allow Tennessee schools to combat learning loss from the Covid pandemic, they will also be able to accelerate achievement for all students.

In the special legislative session held specifically to discuss the Covid relief education funding, districts were asked to prioritize literacy and other learning loss.

During the session, Schwinn said, “Tennessee K-12 districts and schools are receiving an historic amount of funding from the federal government, and as a result have both an incredible opportunity and responsibility to spend this funding to demonstrate how strong student-centered investments can generate positive outcomes and a growth in academic achievement for all children. This funding implores us to invest strategically, implement with fidelity, and report on quantifiable outcomes transparently.”

The stimulus funding will be given out in three rounds, totaling the full stimulus amount of around $4.5 billion, being called Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds.

The Tennessee Department of Education has worked with school districts across the state to help them come up with strategies for effectively implementing the funds. These strategies will target high-impact areas, such as literacy and learning loss, to help better students as they move forward in their education.

The Department is urging each district to use at least one percent of their funds towards staffing their schools. Many districts will also use funds for technology needs, serving special needs and low-income students, and allowing more access to advanced courses.

During each of the three rounds, Tennessee school districts will receive part of their funding.

Governor Lee has expressed hope that the education stimulus can help students recover from learning loss and get them back on track with in-person classes.

On Twitter, Lee said, “In-person learning is safe and it’s the only way our students will get back on track after significant learning loss.”

He also wrote a letter to Chairman Lillian Hartgrove of the State Board of Education, showing his support for in-person learning.

Lee said, “I support the State Board of Education’s work to ensure that in-person learning is again the standard in TN and virtual learning is reserved for emergency use only.”

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