Governor sets expectation of student-centered investments from federal education funds | News

Gov. Bill Lee, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and members of the General Assembly urged school districts to ensure federal education funding goes directly toward student achievement.

Tennessee received nearly $4.5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief stimulus funding allocated specifically for K-12 education.

“By using these funds wisely and returning to in-person learning, we have the opportunity to set our students up for decades of success,” said Lee. “I appreciate the General Assembly passing common-sense provisions that ensure we stay focused on progress, not punishment as teachers, schools and districts get back on their feet after serious disruption.”

Lee said the funding should focus on priority areas, including:

• early reading, tutoring and summer programming with a focus on phonics.

• student readiness supports, including ACT preparation.

• expanding access to advanced coursework.

• CTE equipment and programs.

• innovative models for K-12 mental health supports.

• teacher recruitment and retention.

• deferred maintenance for facilities.

• technology for devices and high-speed internet.

• serving special needs and low-income students.

The significant funding creates opportunities for districts to invest in the success of Tennessee students to not only combat learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also accelerate achievement for all students across the state. Districts are encouraged to specifically focus on literacy and recent learning loss outlined in the legislation passed during the special legislative session focused on education.

“Tennessee K-12 districts and schools are receiving an historic amount of funding from the federal government, and as a result have both an incredible opportunity and responsibility to spend this funding to demonstrate how strong student-centered investments can generate positive outcomes and a growth in academic achievement for all children,” said Schwinn. “This funding implores us to invest strategically, implement with fidelity and report on quantifiable outcomes transparently.”

After three rounds of federal COVID-19 stimulus funding, Tennessee’s K-12 schools will benefit from nearly $4.5 billion in elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds.

The Tennessee Department of Education provided districts with resources and guidance for their planning and implementation to invest in a small number of high-impact items, within a cohesive and aligned strategy, that are most critical for students as they progress through their education and into their careers.

The department urged districts to allocate a minimum of 1% of their allocations to fund staffing support for the ongoing reporting, monitoring and public transparency requirements associated with the funding.