Greetings Fabulous Folks of the Fortieth!
Closing in on the third month of 2019, time is most certainly zooming by. This past Wednesday, Transportation Safety and Funding Subcommittee closed per call of the chair. With our calendar complete, Blue Bell Ice Cream was served to thank committee and staff members for a job well done. House Bill 531 will guarantee our rural counties will have resources needed to keep up with infrastructure demands. House Bill 164 expands the offense of holding a cellphone while driving from only in a school zone to statewide implementation. We must change Tennessee’s ranking as first in the nation in distracted driving deaths. Transportation Full Committee will have its last meeting on April 2, while many other sub and full committees will also be hearing their final calendars this week.
For Fiscal Year 2019-2020, a total investment of $11.3 billion will be allotted for education. Additionally, $6.5 billion will directly benefit K-12 in our public schools. Our K-12 investment allocates $71 million in teacher’s salaries, $46 million to fully fund the BEP and another $40 million to help secure our schools to provide resource officers and other safety measures.
Focused on education, Tennessee continues to be committed to Tennessee’s future leaders, our children. On Wednesday House Bill 939, also known as Education Savings Account, was discussed for nearly three hours as members of the Full Education Committee asked questions, shared different points of view and made comments of concern in order to address how to better serve those students who reside in areas with three or more low performing schools. House Bill 939, as amended, serves a small, limited group of students who need help. We are not talking about a mass exodus of children leaving the system. Though this legislation doesn’t have all the answers, choice works for some, thus I believe it deserves a start towards a solution to serve those kids. The bill specifically addresses how many students can participate, starting with 5000 students the first year and capping out at 15,000 students for the fifth school year of operation. Tennessee has more than one million public school students statewide. In order for ESAs to expand outside the narrow restrictions of this legislation, another bill would have to change it, amend it, or end it.
As I commented in the committee, this legislation deserves more discussion and debate worthy of all 99 House members before passage. Yes, I still have concerns and currently am seeking to get those answers should this bill move to Sub and Full Finance, Ways, and Means Committee after Government Operations Committee next week before coming to the House Floor. The General Assembly is also working on more legislation to better our education, such as House Bill 949 that expands vocational and technical training opportunities for students and House Bill 952 that increases CTE courses offering fabulous job training for 21st century careers right after graduating High School! These are all part of a vision to help Tennessee out of the bottom half of education nationally; however, Tennessee was the fastest improving in math, reading and science last year, with the best high school graduation rates EVER —– 89.1%. Tennessee’s future looks bright indeed!
In House District 40 there are no failing schools. In fact, Dekalb, Smith, Trousdale, and Sumner Counties all have schools that have been recipients of the prestigious label of a Reward School due to significant growth in student outcomes. Teachers in District 40 are passionate, driven, and way overdue for the designated teacher pay increase in this year’s budget. Thank you, Governor Lee! I have faith in my public schools and House Bill 939 will bring no harm to the hub of our communities. Instead of federal control, we will strengthen our public schools with less regulations and restrictions by giving our teachers the freedom to do what they do best, TEACH.
.A very interesting fact worth noting is since 1956, according to the Legislative Library Tennessee Budget Book, $208 billion dollars has been invested in our education!
Tennessee’s unemployment rate hits another record low from 3.6% to 3.2%. We are truly a blessed state, and I will continue to commit to legislation that will ensure that Tennessee is the best state to live, work, and raise a family.
Terri Lynn Weaver