The Tennessee General Assembly may be out of session for the year, but that doesn’t mean the policymaking process comes to a halt. During the 2019 legislative session, Tennessee state legislators passed approximately 70 bills that impact students in pre-K-12 schools. That means about 70 laws must be put into action and implemented. Although it is generally the responsibility of state education agencies and school district leadership to execute these new laws, every advocate can contribute to supporting successful implementation. Following are three opportunities to get involved with the policymaking process at the implementation stage.
Strengthening Career and Technical Education
Tennessee Public Chapter 204 updates Tennessee laws that govern career and technical education (CTE) to align with a new federal law, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, otherwise known as Perkins V. These new laws provide opportunities to improve and support CTE programs through stakeholder engagement. Perkins V requires intentional consultation with stakeholders to inform and work collaboratively to develop a data-driven state plan. The state’s proposed plan is available for review and feedback at the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) public comment portal. Comments will be accepted through October 31, 2019.
Prioritizing Computer Science Education
Tennessee Public Chapter 454 requires TDOE to develop a state plan for computer science in grades K-12 with input and feedback from stakeholders. Computer science is incredibly important because it drives job growth and innovation, and computing occupations make up more than half of all projected new jobs in STEM fields. The state plan for computer science must set strategic goals to ensure that every high school student has access to at least one computer science course and that students of all ages are exposed to computer science education. The plan must also outline a way to support the computer science teacher pipeline. TDOE is beginning to build the draft plan, with the public comment period expected to take place in early spring. To provide initial input and ask questions, reach out to CTE.Questions@tn.gov and regularly check the TDOE website.
State Board of Education Engagement
Several new laws, such as Tennessee Public Chapter 421, require the State Board of Education (SBE) to adopt or update rules and policies. As the governing and policymaking body for Tennessee’s pre-K-12 public education system, the SBE plays an important role in policy decisions. Advocates may review items on first reading and submit feedback on proposed policies and rules before final reading. Pending rules and policies may be tracked on the SBE website. Stay informed about the SBE by signing up for their monthly newsletter.
In the policymaking process, particularly for education policy, meaningful stakeholder engagement and collaboration is crucial at all stages. As an advocate, you can help ensure successful implementation to improve and expand opportunities for students; therefore, I encourage you to stay engaged and provide meaningful input. For a full list of all pre-K-12 education legislation approved by the Tennessee General Assembly, see the TDOE’s Legislative Report.
Annie Freeland is SCORE’s senior K-12 policy analyst.