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Gov. Lee calls special January session to address pressing education needs

The Legislature convenes noon Jan. 12.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Gov. Bill Lee wants the General Assembly to meet next month in special session to address weak learning performance by students, education funding, literacy and teacher pay, among other topics.

Lawmakers would meet Tuesday, Jan. 19, in Nashville. The 112th General Assembly is set to convene noon Jan. 12. 

Lee told reporters in September he was alarmed by falling proficiencies by students in some academic subjects.

Lee and his administration say data shows students in some grades aren't performing as well as they should for their class group. The pandemic set students back in the spring, and Lee argues all efforts should be made to conduct classes in person rather than by virtual means.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense disruption for Tennessee’s students, educators, and districts, and the challenges they face must be addressed urgently,” Lee said Tuesday in a press statement.

“Even before the virus hit, and despite years of improvement, too many of our state’s students were still unable to read on grade level. I’m calling on the legislature to join us in addressing these serious issues so we can equip our hardworking educators and districts with the resources and supports they need to set our students on the path to success.”

Democratic leaders said more is needed.

"I hope the legislature takes this opportunity to unite around a bold agenda that invests in public schools. We have to give our educators the resources they need to support students and reverse learning loss, but we can't stop there. Tennessee was 46th in the nation for student funding before the pandemic hit. The coronavirus did not create inequities in education and it is not the cause of our teacher retention crisis, but it did make these problems worse," state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, said in a statement.

"No matter what ZIP code you're in, every child deserves a great, well-funded public school and our teachers deserve a safe working environment that respects and rewards their contributions."

Many school systems including Knox County Schools shut down in-person learning this month as COVID-19 cases began to climb. Public schools are currently on winter break.

Democratic

"I hope the legislature takes this opportunity to unite around a bold agenda that invests in public schools. We have to give our educators the resources they need to support students and reverse learning loss, but we can't stop there. Tennessee was 46th in the nation for student funding before the pandemic hit. The coronavirus did not create inequities in education and it is not the cause of our teacher retention crisis, but it did make these problems worse.

"No matter what zip code you're in, every child deserves a great, well-funded public school and our teachers deserve a safe working environment that respects and rewards their contributions."