New bill would pull funding from Tennessee schools that don’t return to the classroom

Governor Lee backs bill that could cut school funding

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A closer look into a controversial bill that could cut school funds if Tennessee districts do not meet a certain requirement of in-person learning days.

“I think that it is truly unfortunate and insulting,” said Tennessee State Senator Raumesh Akbari.

Akbari who is also an education committee officer thinks House Bill 7021 is a step in the wrong direction.

If passed, the bill would require local school districts to provide in-person instruction for at least 70 days this school year and the full 180 days next year or risk losing all or part of their state funding.

“For anyone to file legislation to potentially threaten funding when Tennessee is already 46th in funding out of 50 states it really is, it’s maddening and I think it’s the opposite direction that we need to move in,” said Akbari.

The bill was introduced Tuesday, the same day Governor Bill Lee criticized education leaders who have continued virtual learning.

“You can’t say ‘follow the science’ and keep schools closed. You can’t say ‘I believe in public education’ and keep schools closed. You can’t say you’re putting the needs of students first and keep schools closed,” said Lee.

Special legislative session to address issues with education in Tennessee

Shelby County Schools, the largest district in the state has stuck with virtual learning since the beginning of the pandemic.

Superintended Dr. Joris Ray stands against the bill.

“Watching state leaders call for in-person learning on the state legislature’s virtual video meeting today sends a mixed and hypocritical message,” said Ray.

Akbari says it’s important to allow school districts to make decisions themselves based on what is best for their students and staff.

House Bill 7021

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