Increased teacher salaries, the expansion of virtual learning opportunities and a moratorium on state standardized testing for the 2020-21 school year are a few of the issues included in the Germantown Board of Education’s annual Legislative Agenda.
Board members approved the agenda 5-0 last week during their first meeting of the new year.
Included in the statewide agenda, Board members urged the General Assembly to “hold districts harmless and provide Basic Education Program (BEP) funding” in an equal or greater amount than the previous year.
Last summer, Tennessee legislators decided to flat fund the BEP formula in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. An $117 million increase in teacher salaries in last year’s state budget was lowered to $58 million in March and then cut completely in June.
Germantown’s board members also requested that the General Assembly include growth funds equal to or greater than last year and “assist with holding districts harmless for any potential loss of federal and child nutrition funds due to reduced enrollment or meal participation.”
The board opposed publicly funded education vouchers, stating that it “adamantly opposes any legislation intended to create or expand programs that would divert money intended for public education to private schools or organizations.”
Gov. Bill Lee was urged by the board to use his “emergency powers to extend the provisions of Public Chapter 652 for the 2020-21 school year.”
Last April, Lee signed the Chapter, which removed the requirement for TNReady testing, end-of-course examinations, and other related testing and assessments; the Chapter also suspended the student growth measure of teacher’s evaluations, with other teacher evaluation exemptions, and allowed the State Board of Education to promulgate necessary rules to address the issues created by COVID-19 in the 2019-2020 school year.
If it is not possible for Lee to do this, the legislative agenda asks that the General Assembly “place a moratorium on state standardized testing and accountability for the 2020-21 school year.”
“Or if testing does occur,” it states, “pass legislation that holds districts, schools, teachers and students harmless on all accountability measures.”
Board members also asked that the General Assembly amend employee background check requirements to allow local education agencies to take into consideration the “severity of certain offenses and the time that has elapsed since those offenses were committed.”
The 112th General Assembly convened on Jan. 12.
The legislative agenda also called for increased funding for teachers, as well as counselors, school psychologists, social workers and behavioral specialists.
The State Board of Education was asked to improve “licensure reciprocity for out-of-state teachers and create alternative pathways for licensure attainment and advancement.”