If school districts don’t do what House Majority Leader William Lamberth wants, he’s going to take their money and run. Seriously. It’s actually pretty much the text of HB7021.
As introduced, the bill says that if districts fail to provide at least 70 days of in-person instruction for students in grades K-8 in the 2020-21 academic year and 180 days in the 2021-22 academic year, the Commissioner of Education may withhold all or a part of that district’s BEP funds.
I mean, I wrote a few days ago about carrots and sticks, but this is taking it a bit far.
It’s not clear to me what Lamberth hopes to accomplish by this other than forcing districts to make a decision to return to in-person learning at a time when COVID is still surging in our state.
Here’s the deal: Districts can’t take the risk they’d lose any BEP money. In fact, the BEP is inadequate (by $1.7 billion) as it is. So, it’s not like there’s tons of extra cash sitting around and districts can just ignore this ridiculous request.
While most people agree that in-person learning is the best possible climate for students, especially in grades K-8, not dying or carrying COVID home to parents is also a worthy outcome.
The bill appears designed to force districts like Memphis and Nashville, both of which have been and are still completely virtual in all grades, to return to in-person learning. In other words, Lamberth wants to overturn the will of the district leaders and school boards in these two cities (and others that have made similar moves).
It’s interesting that this bill comes even as Gov. Lee revealed his not so special legislative session legislative package last week. That package of bills includes a number of unfunded mandates. So, Lamberth is going to take money from districts that put student safety first and Lee is going to hit those same districts with a host of unfunded mandates. Makes tons of sense!
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