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2022 Legislative Wrap Up

Momentum continues for early care and education 

Tennessee saw some great wins for early education in the 2022 legislative session.

The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA)

In the biggest win for Tennessee children this session, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (SB2396/HB2143) passed, updating the K – 12 public education funding model for the first time in 30 years. Alongside an additional $1 billion in funding for public education, TISA’s student-centered approach recognizes and supports the unique needs of each child. The inclusion of crucial investments in early education, Kindergarten through third grade, are especially noteworthy as we fight to improve Tennessee’s early education foundation and get more students reading at grade level by third grade. Additionally, TISA adds new funding for school nurses and counselors in the base for all students, and includes funding weights for students who are economically disadvantaged and/or have unique learning needs.

Momentum for Pre-K expansion

More than 2,050 advocates emailed nearly 14,000 letters to state policymakers and/or signed a petition in support of Pre-K expansion through SB2179/HB2201. Chambers of commerce from all corners of the state sent joint letters of support, while community leaders and parents also made their voices heard. Despite SB2179/HB2201 making it out of three education committees, ultimately it did not pass. But we are proud of the strong momentum we created together and are more committed than ever to continuing the fight to make Pre-K an option for more children and families.

Other Wins for Pre-K 

Pre-K is now included in the state’s definition of elementary schools, thanks to the passage of SB2563/HB1890. The state definition now clarifies that “For purposes of federal funding, elementary schools are schools serving any combination of pre-kindergarten through grade six.” This change makes Pre-K spending eligible through some federal programs, leaving ultimate decisions to local educational agencies.

Through SB2595/HB2709 previously conflicting statutes regarding the eligibility of students who may attend Pre-K were clarified. The original conflicting statutes both required the Voluntary Pre-K program to first serve economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds, but they differed greatly on which kids may fill empty seats. One statute enabled an empty seat to be filled by any other 4-year-old while the other statute required districts to fill seats with students with at-risk factors or economically disadvantaged 3-year-olds.  Thanks to the passage of this legislation, local education agencies now have the flexibility to determine which of these groups of students may fill the empty seats.

What’s ahead

We’ll be back full steam ahead when the 113th Tennessee General Assembly convenes in 2023. With your help, we’ll continue to make progress towards ensuring all children have the strong foundation they need for a bright future.

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