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'We have to have trust' | State lawmakers hold hearing on the reopening of schools

Lawmakers posed several questions to Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. They covered everything from vouchers to curriculum.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After members of the Tennessee Board of Education and several superintendents spoke and answered questions Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn spoke before the Tennessee House Education Committee.

Questions varied. Many centered around curriculum, accountability and what the department is doing to fill in the gaps.

"Superintendents say some of their most distressed students are in virtual learning, is the department concerned about closing the gap what are they doing?" Rep. Scott Cepicky of Culleoka asked.

Schwinn responded.

"I think the best place to learn is in the classroom but yes I am concerned, especially about some of our youngest students," Schwinn said. "In terms of how we close that gap, I think there are a number of resources we are building and will continue to build. "

"What is your position on ESAs and Vouchers," Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis asked. 

Schwinn replied quickly. 

"I support ESAs and vouchers," she said.

"You say you have extra COVID money will you use this for kids in need over the summer," Rep. David Bird of Waynesboro asked. 

Schwinn answered.

"Yes we would love to continue to support local decision making," she said. 

But then the topic of summer school arose. 

"Would you support legislation to have funding for summer school for the most at-risk students," Rep. Cepicky said.

"Yes, I believe in more time for our students," Schwinn answered. 

However, lawmakers did have some concerns. Rep. Cepicky brought up the commissioner's child well-being checks that will no longer be facilitated. This after several lawmakers expressed concern about such a wide scale 

"We understand there have been missteps by the department that can't happen again," he said. "We have to be able to trust you there are a million kids depending on us to get it right."

The committee will hold another hearing tomorrow. You can find that info and the full video here.