MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Friday, the Shelby County Superintendent came out with a message he called urgent, pleading with state lawmakers not to pass a bill proposed by the Governor that would strip funding to school districts who do not return to in-person learning.
It was a different weekly address for SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray Friday as he joined state Democrats in pushing back on a controversial proposal from Governor Bill Lee that threatens funding for Shelby County Schools.
“This week I come to you a bit earlier but with a sense of urgency and with a message to our state leaders and lawmakers,” Dr. Joris Ray, Shelby County Schools Superintendent said in his weekly address posted Friday.
In his weekly video addresses, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray normally speaks to Shelby County parents and students but Friday Dr. Ray made a passionate plea to state lawmakers.
“Please don’t hurt my children,” Dr. Ray said.
During a fast-paced 4-day special session to address education and learning loss, Governor Bill Lee proposed a bill that would withhold a portion or all funding if a school district does not provide an in-person learning option for at least 70 days this school year.
SCS is one of two districts in Tennessee holding classes online only.
“School is in session. So when you call for getting back to school, you denigrate the incredibly hard work of teachers across my district and across the state,” Dr. Ray said.
During an end of the special session press conference Friday, Governor Bill Lee and state lawmakers touted the $160-million dollar package of bills lawmakers did pass, including summer remedial programs and eliminating standardized testing punishments for teachers.
But questions remained around the controversial in-person leaning funding legislation that was not passed.
“It’s been really clear from my perspective that kids need to be in school,” Governor Bill Lee said Friday.
State Democrats criticized what they say is a rushed attempt by the Governor to force kids back into classrooms before it is safe in a press conference of their own in the afternoon.
“It does nothing but punishes parents that try to keep their kids safe,” TN State Rep. Vincent Dixie, District 54 said.
“Right now Tennessee has the 3rd highest number of children who’ve had COVID of any state in the country,” TN State Sen. Jeff Yarbo, District 21 said.
Republican lawmakers said they may take up the Governor’s proposal as well as other education bills in the regular session.