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Tennessee Budget in the Coronavirus Era

Thursday, March 19, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Professional Educators of Tennessee
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Our state has been unexpectedly impacted by the Covid-19 virus (Coronavirus), an international health crisis. We are now living in a difficult and uncertain time that has forced statewide school closures. It is still critical that we do everything possible to support the needs of our students, teachers, and schools.


First and foremost, we applaud the Governor and the Department of Education for seeking and receiving nutrition waivers from the Federal Government to ensure that students will continue to be fed despite school closures. This is critical for countless families across the state.


Second, we support the joint effort of the Tennessee General Assembly, Governor Bill Lee, and Commissioner Penny Schwinn to craft legislation to suspend mandatory testing and accountability, and ensure that any lengthy school closures will not adversely affect our students, teachers, and schools. We have offered our input and appreciate the opportunity to have our voices heard on this critical joint effort in uncertain times. It takes everyone working together, something Governor Lee understands as we navigate these unchartered times together. We offer our full support.


Tennessee is a resilient state made up of incredible people with a generous spirit. We are certain we will defeat COVID-19. We take the issue of COVID-19 very seriously, and we are monitoring the development daily. We will undoubtedly have difficult days ahead.


The Tennessee General Assembly will pass a scaled-down version of the state budget. It is important to highlight for our educators that the proposed budget still contains a 2% raise in the BEP instructional component for our teachers. Should the crisis subside, we are confident this administration will revisit and fulfill their original commitment to teacher salaries. In the meantime, everyone across the state is tightening their belt.


Teacher salaries are one of the only wage increases that were not cut in the new, scaled-down budget, and we thank Governor Lee for continuing to prioritize our educators despite the urgent need to reallocate significant resources to prepare our state for the effects of COVID-19.


Finally, we know the legislature will be recessing to return to their home districts. Once they return to Nashville and resume the legislative session, we are hopeful that we, as a state, will have weathered the worst of this outbreak, and that the Governor’s office and legislature will revisit budget investments for public education.


In challenging times, there will always be those who invoke fear and distrust. A crisis brings out the best, and the worst, in people. Abraham Lincoln echoed the need for our citizens to pull together when he said: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” Our confidence is that we will come out of this crisis as a stronger state, and public education will remain a cornerstone of that endeavor. We have confidence in our future. 





JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please call 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.


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