On Friday afternoon, the first session of Tennessee’s 113th General Assembly adjourned. As you know, this session was marked by intense focus on a range of highly charged issues and often emotional debate. As we have always done, SCORE remains focused on engaging on policies that will impact Tennessee student outcomes.
Our state has been a national leader in education policy and in implementing innovative approaches to improve the state’s education system, and this year’s legislative session included several promising actions to support students. These initiatives — which range from additional funding for educator salaries and growing our teacher pipeline to support for early-grade interventions and innovative school models — represent continued forward progress on education in Tennessee. Below are highlights aligned to SCORE’s priorities that we worked to prioritize this year:
- An additional $350 million investment in the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) funding formula, including $125 million for educator salary increases.
- A $4.5 million investment to pilot a teacher scholarship to pay full tuition and fees for students who enroll in an educator preparation program and agree to teach in Tennessee for at least four years in areas where teachers are needed most, including subject areas and regions of the state where we face the greatest teacher shortage.
- An ongoing commitment to high-quality interventions for early-grade students in need of additional support, including an extension of summer learning camps to provide K-3 students access to this opportunity as well as an investment to provide English language arts tutoring for any K-3 student who is retained.
- A new $3 million investment for innovative instruction models to support the replication and scaling of best practices in charter schools.
- Several important updates to Tennessee’s charter school law, including allowing schools the option to prioritize economically disadvantaged students in their enrollment lotteries, clarifying charter out-of-district enrollment policy options, and adding a corrective action plan provision for charter schools to pursue any needed improvements.
- Financial support for Tennessee Promise and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) summer bridge programs to ease students’ transition from high school into higher education.
- A historic investment in our Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) system to build six new TCATs, improve existing TCAT facilities, and fund instructional equipment at the Blue Oval TCAT.
- Multiple new investments to support alternative pathways to teacher licensure, including funds for Grow Your Own programs, Teach For America, and the Memphis Teacher Residency.
- The extension of a career assessment pilot program to provide all students the opportunity to take the ACT WorkKeys, in addition to the ACT.
We are encouraged by this progress but recognize that more work still needs to be done in policy and practice to support Tennessee students. We look forward to working with all of our education partners as policies are implemented and we work to drive forward future priorities. These include better utilization of education-to-workforce data, ensuring high-quality public charter schools have the necessary resources, and supporting improved postsecondary outcomes.
Despite the tumultuous moments of the 2023 legislative session, Tennessee is taking steps forward in ensuring that all students have access to high-quality educational experiences from kindergarten to career.
David Mansouri is SCORE’s president and CEO.