NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — 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 during a press conference Monday.
Tennessee has received nearly $4.5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief stimulus funding allocated specifically for K-12 education from the three rounds of stimulus relief packages.
“By using these funds wisely and returning to in-person learning, we have the opportunity to set our students up for decades of success,” Lee said. “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 is saying funding should focus on the following priority areas:
- 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 high school models
- 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 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.
Some local county funding totals from the three rounds of stimulus include:
- Anderson: $18,280,678.90
- Blount: $26,417,669.96
- Campbell: $24,823,307.60
- Jefferson: $21,894,291.38
- Knox: $177,808,707.04
- Loudon: $10,562,769.29
- Roane: $20,558,781.84
- Sevier: $42,641,212.12
“Tennessee K-12 districts and schools are receiving a 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,” Commissioner Schwinn said. “This funding implores us to invest strategically, implement with fidelity, and report on quantifiable outcomes transparently.”
The Tennessee Department of Education has 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 has 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 this funding.