January 22, 2021
The 2021 extraordinary session on education has just adjourned. As a freshman I will admit that it was slightly overwhelming trying to keep up. I spent last week on Zoom calls hearing from school administrators and this week sorted through many emails and phone calls from educators and concerned citizens. I also tried to comb through every word in the Governor’s proposed legislation. Although I don’t claim to know every thing about it, it was time well spent. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the perspectives of so many passionate individuals, sharing what they would like to see changed, and what they want to see done moving forward.
After much consideration and lots of questions, I voted in favor of all pieces of legislation with their appropriate amendments. One of the biggest concerns I had heard from educators was holding back 3rd-grade students if they did not meet the required reading standards. After much debate and conversation, there was an amendment added. This amendment adds an appeal process for families, at no cost to the family, that would allow their child to move onto the next grade. I am glad that for this addition.
The other big concern from this session was the testing issue. It has been discovered that these standardized tests are something that the federal Dept. of Education requires. Gov. Lee had requested from the federal Dept. of Education to waive both testing and accountability from test scores from the previous administration. Our State was only granted the waiver for accountability, thus why we were unable to halt testing as it currently stands.
Even though this legislation may not be perfect, I believe that this is a stepping stone in the right direction. We simply can NOT sit on our hands and do nothing. There is a lot of good in these pieces of legislation. I trust that these new guidelines will be a step in the right direction and give our youngest students the foundation and resources they need to be successful now and in the future.
Work still needs to be done, though. I will continue to seek input educators on what should and should not be in this legislation. I will continue to collaborate with Knox County Schools and my fellow legislators to try and find ways to improve these groundbreaking pieces of legislation. I hope you respect my reasoning and explanations, and I look forward to hearing more from you.
A huge thank you to all of my colleagues for their efforts, but especially Leader Lamberth, Representative Hazelwood, Representative Moody, Representative White, Representative Gant, and Representative Cepicky. On behalf of Knox County District 18, I am grateful.