JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – State lawmakers anticipate discussing topics such as student learning loss and teacher pay at next week’s special legislative session on education. The special session was called by Governor Bill Lee and begins Jan. 19th.
On Thursday, the governor announced three pieces of legislation concerning learning loss, literacy, and accountability for lawmakers to consider.
In an interview with News Channel 11 on Wednesday, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said a learning loss bill would be discussed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to separate students and teachers from traditional classrooms.
“It sets up the program for after school and summer school for kids who are so far behind, to try to get them into a program to catch them up,” Sexton said.
This learning loss bill also promotes stipends for teachers who would tutor or mentor students after school or during the summer.
“The reason that’s important, is right now we give teachers a stipend to coach athletics but not to improve someone’s academics, and that’s just a bad message to send,” said Sexton. “So hopefully we’ll be able to give supplements as well for people who want to help kids get back on track.”
Sexton said he’s in favor of giving teachers pay raises this year. Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) also wants increased teacher pay.
“What I would like to see discussed in special session next week, is the possibility, since we can’t come in and give a recurring raise, what is the possibility of doing a one-time bonus for teachers, for this fiscal year? Which could be as early as springtime,” Hawk said.
Also keeping a close eye on next week’s special session is Joe Crabtree, president of the Johnson City Education Association.
“We’re seeing our teachers, and our support staff, who are just exhausted. They are working day and night to really just support our kids,” Crabtree said.
The Tennessee Education Association is calling for a suspension of teacher evaluations and state-mandated testing for the 2020-2021 school year.
“In a year where we have this gigantic learning loss, one thing we would like to see is to use those weeks that we would normally have for standardized testing this year, and use that for more instruction, help us get more time with our kids in the classroom,” said Crabtree.
Both teacher evaluations and testing are addressed in one piece of legislation announced by Gov. Lee on Thursday. The bill calls for the extension of hold harmless provisions from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year so students, teachers, schools and districts do not face any negative consequences associated with student assessments. SB 7001 also calls to provide parents and educators with assessment data, including TCAP testing.