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A potentially volatile situation is brewing in the Tennessee legislature, where Republicans are threatening to pull school funding for districts that do not offer in-person classes for at least 70 days for kindergarten through eighth grade. As the Tennessean notes, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson and House Majority Leader William Lamberth have filed a bill that would enable the state’s education commissioner to withhold those funds.
Most of the school districts in Tennessee are open. This measure is essentially aimed at compelling Nashville and Memphis public schools to reopen ASAP.
“This is not a punitive thing,” Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton told the Tennessean. “This is just us saying we think there needs to be an option to be in school. I think everybody can meet that goal of 70, so we don’t think it’s out of the ordinary for the whole state to be able to meet that standard.”
Unsurprisingly, this has not been a welcome development for the leaders of the affected districts. “Any proposal to take funding away from students and threaten the mass layoff of teachers in the 2021-22 school year is terrible public policy and does nothing to address any real learning challenges or gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, nor does it do anything to create a safer working or learning environment by slowing or stopping the spread of the coronavirus,” Nashville Public Schools Director Adrienne Battle said in a statement to the Tennesseean.
Frustrations amongst Nashville parents reached a boiling point earlier this week when it was revealed that Nashville Public Schools chair Christiane Buggs enjoyed a vacation in St. Lucia and hosted an in-person election party at a bar in recent months.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has been adamant that schools should be open in America.
“Close the bars and keep the schools open,” Dr. Fauci said on ABC News in November. “You don’t have one size fits all, but as I said in the past, the default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school and to get them back to school. The best way to ensure the safety of the children in school is to get the community level of spread low.”
“If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not really very big at all — not like one would have suspected,” Dr. Fauci said.