Our 2021 Virtual Town Halls
With the pandemic intruding upon the Tennessee legislative session this year, we cancelled our annual Day on the Hill but knew we had to find new and different ways to amplify your voices with policymakers. Thanks to technology, we held five “Virtual Town Halls” with policymakers and advocates. Below are some highlights.
Reimagining Child Care In Tennessee
There has never been a more opportune moment for reimagining child care in Tennessee. Our state is set to receive billions in federal funding –some of which is specifically for child care and some of which may be used for child care and early education — from CARES Act, CRRSA and ARP. That’s on top of our annual federal CCDF block grant for child care of about $200 million. Plus, the TN General Assembly just passed legislation (HB598 Hazlewood / SB677 Massey) that will establish a Child Care Task Force to create a strategic action plan for high quality, accessible, affordable child care in Tennessee. That task force will get underway this fall, and it’s time to start organizing advocate thoughts and input!
To that end, we held our first Virtual Town Hall on April 30. You can view the April 30 recording to the left if you’d like (don’t laugh when you see us manage through some technical glitches!), and find pertinent slides HERE.
Tennessee Opportunity Act. SB0144 (Watson) / HB0137 (Hawk) Successfully merged into Governor’s Bill: SB0741 (Johnson) / HB0142 (Lamberth)
We’re delighted to report successful negotiations among our TN Opportunity Act bill sponsors, the governor’s office and the department of human services resulting in the final governor’s bill which incorporated 95% of the originally proposed TN Opportunity Act. The bill ultimately passed the Senate and House unopposed. Among other things, the legislation establishes a reasonable reserve equivalent to one year’s TANF block grant, ensures TANF block grant funds other than the reserve are spent annually where the need is, deploys $182 million from the $700 million surplus for communities to plan, implement and evaluate comprehensive strategies to reduce child poverty and promote economic self sufficiency through 2-generation approaches, and deploys another $54 million for Families First grants to support TANF eligible families’ pathway to self-sufficiency.
Governor Lee’s Literacy and Learning Loss Bill Package | SB7001/HB7003, SB7002/HB7004, SB7003/HB7002
It’s widely acknowledged that 3rd grade is a critical K-12 benchmark; and yet only one-third of Tennessee 3rd graders are proficient in reading. If a student is not proficient by third grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school and 60% less likely to pursue a post-secondary degree. As Tennessee data demonstrates, once students fall behind in third grade, they tend to stay behind, or fall further, in subsequent years. Low proficiency in third grade is a clear indication that the quality of children’s learning experiences leading up to 3rd grade requires significant improvements.
TQEE supported the passage Governor Lee’s package of literacy bills during the special legislative session on education. The bills establish a new phonics-based reading program to help boost literacy rates, allocate resources for tutoring, summer and afterschool programs to accelerate learning and address learning loss due to the pandemic, and ensure standardized tests are administered to ensure visibility into student progress while “holding harmless” educators, schools and students for test outcomes. Read more here.