Tennessee lawmakers OK legislation giving governor authority to require in-person learning at schools

Tennessee lawmakers OK legislation giving governor authority to require in-person learning at schools
This Jan. 8, 2020, photo shows the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (Source: Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - The Tennessee state Senate approved a bill Monday giving the governor the authority to issue an executive order requiring all schools to offer in-person learning.   

Senate Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, says he sponsored SB 103 following an outcry by students and parents in Shelby County Schools to reopen schools after almost a year of being closed to in-person instruction.

“This is a victory for students and parents as every Tennessee family deserves the choice of in-person learning,” said Sen. Kelsey.  “Allowing students to return to the classroom is long overdue as we have many students, especially low-income students, who are struggling this year and falling behind their peers.  No one is saying that the governor should force students back into an atmosphere which they feel is unsafe.  For those parents who want their children back into school, let’s follow the science, and the science says it’s safe.”

Shelby County was the last county in Tennessee to announce plans to reopen, which came two days after Kelsey’s bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee.

In addition, the bill grants school boards more independence regarding whether their schools should be open or closed to in-person learning during a public emergency, unless the governor has issued a statewide order.  School boards can delegate the authority to the director of schools under an amendment added to the legislation.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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