Bill Lee’s Not So Special Session

So, Gov. Bill Lee has decided to call a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to address education issues he’s largely ignored during his time as governor. While Lee has eagerly pursued a privatization agenda, he’s left teachers and public schools behind. Now, he wants to make it seem like he’s doing something. This is, after all, the same Governor who led Tennessee to the “best in the world” status in transmission rate of COVID-19.

Chalkbeat reports on the topics to be discussed during the session:

He’ll ask the legislature to address state testing challenges next spring during the pandemic, as well as funding for teacher pay and schools for the following academic year. Also on the agenda will be initiatives to address learning loss and a comprehensive literacy package to improve students’ reading proficiency.

Reading this is actually pretty amusing, considering the very problems or challenges Lee is seeking to address were created by a man named Bill Lee who happens to be the Governor. Maybe “Special Session Bill Lee” should go have a talk with “Regular Session Bill Lee” and see what they can work out?

Anyway, let’s look at those issues.

Testing

Bill Lee has consistently pushed the state’s failed testing agenda that means more profits for testing companies and less learning for kids:

Funding and Teacher Pay

This is hilarious. Gov. Bill Lee, who cut a planned teacher pay raise just a few short months ago, now says we need funding for . . . teacher pay? Are you even kidding? Do you think teachers don’t have memories?

Oh, and remember his first proposed budget? The one that made it clear his priorities were with a privatization agenda and NOT with investing in teachers?

Then, there’s the overall issue of school funding. An independent review found that the state’s school funding formula needs at least $1.7 billion to adequately fund schools. Has Lee made any effort to meet this need? NO!

Learning Loss and Literacy

You want to address learning loss and literacy? Fund our schools, pay our teachers, and invest in kids. Lee’s done none of those things and there’s exactly zero indication that he has a plan to change that.

Echo Chamber

Predictably, Lee’s allies chimed in right away applauding his poor excuse for effort as something other than sound and fury signifying nothing.

These two stooges eagerly support Lee and went along with his plans to cut investment in schools in June of this year. Now, they’re acting like Lee is some kind of hero for realizing there’s a crisis — a crisis of his own creation. It’s like a firefighter complimenting an arsonist for at least calling the fire department AFTER the house was almost absorbed in flames.

Forward

If we want to move our state forward in terms of public education, we will do the following:

  1. Cancel TNReady now and forever
  2. Invest in teacher pay – starting with at least a 25% raise to make up for years of inadequacy
  3. Add the $1.7 billion TACIR says our state needs to properly fund schools and distribute it according to a new BEP formula that builds on BEP 2.0.

I’m going to go ahead and predict that Bill Lee and his cronies will do none of those things. Oh, and to no one’s surprise, Lee’s dark money pals over at Tennesseans for Student Success are already out with a statement congratulating Lee for his efforts.

This is kind of like a cow congratulating a chicken for realizing it was a bad idea to go to KFC.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Your support$5 or more – makes publishing education news possible.

Fund Us

In the wake of Governor Bill Lee’s voucher legislation that is poised to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and drain resources from public schools, the Fayetteville City School Board passed a resolution calling on the General Assembly to make a commitment to funding teacher salaries.

The Elk Valley Times has more:


The Fayetteville City School Board has adopted a resolution urging legislators to increase public school teachers’ pay by the same amount invested in Education Savings Accounts established through legislation passed by the General Assembly this past session.

The Board is asking school districts across the state to join in the effort. The resolution notes that current BEP funding for schools does not adequately fund teacher pay.


“ … Local school boards recognize that funding for teacher salaries under the Basic Education Program (BEP) under current law is insufficient,” the resolution continues. “ … Districts are funded based on a district-wide student-teacher ratio, rather than the actual number a district is required to employ to meet school-level ratio requirements … The teacher salary used for BEP funding does not represent the actual average teacher salary statewide.

While vouchers certainly impact school funding, it’s also worth noting here that Governor Lee made a significant investment in charter schools this year as well, doubling funds for charter facilities while offering teachers only a 2.5% increase in BEP salary funds.

Estimates indicate that funding the BEP salary component — funds given to districts for teacher pay — at an amount approaching the actual cost of hiring a teacher would mean spending in the range of $300-$500 million.

It’s not clear if Governor Lee or anyone in the legislature has a desire to actually improve teacher pay at a level that will make a real difference. Or, if anyone there even plans on undoing Governor Haslam’s mistake of freezing BEP 2.0.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond if additional districts join Fayetteville in pushing for adequate pay for teachers. Will the same lawmakers who were so focused on ensuring vouchers didn’t “hurt” their districts also support providing their districts with the needed funds to compensate teachers?

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Your support$3 or more today — helps make publishing education news possible.

Got a teacher struggle story? Share: andy@tnedreport.com