Gov. Lee calls for Tennessee General Assembly to address education issues during pandemic in special session

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday called for a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to address what he called “urgent issues facing Tennessee students and schools.”

Lee cited preliminary state data projecting an estimated 50% decrease in proficiency rates in 3rd grade reading and a projected 65% decrease in proficiency in math during the pandemic.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense disruption for Tennessee’s students, educators, and districts, and the challenges they face must be addressed urgently,” Lee said in a statement.

During the special session, the legislature will be tasked to take up five key education issues: Learning Loss, Funding, Accountability, Literacy, and Teacher Pay. Details on each proposal will be released by the Department of Education in the near future, in addition to the department’s plans to implement a new literacy program, “Reading 360.”

“No child’s future should suffer academically because of COVID-19,” said Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), said the state should use the special session to address systemic funding issues in public schools that pre-date the pandemic.

“I hope the legislature takes this opportunity to unite around a bold agenda that invests in public schools,” Akbari said in a statement. “We have to give our educators the resources they need to support students and reverse learning loss, but we can’t stop there. Tennessee was 46th in the nation for student funding before the pandemic hit. The coronavirus did not create inequities in education and it is not the cause of our teacher retention crisis, but it did make these problems worse.”

Janelle B. Smith

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