The Tennessee Department of Education will devote the bulk of its $ 491 million share of one-time federal funding to new literacy initiatives, summer camps and tutoring as the state seeks to accelerate the student learning after a year of pandemic disruption.
The department will also prioritize educational resources, teacher training and programs to prepare more candidates for the teaching profession.
The state released its spending plan last week for its share of the nearly $ 4.2 billion Tennessee is getting for K-12 education thanks to four COVID relief and economic stimulus plans -19 adopted by Congress.
School districts will receive the vast majority of the $ 4.2 billion. They have until June 1 to decide how to spend the largest and most recent round of funding provided under the Biden administration.
The massive injection of cash – which represents two-thirds of what the state spends in a single year on its students – presents a historic opportunity to transform public education in a state that ranks at the lowest in the country for students. expenditure per student.
But all the money needs to be spent or allocated by fall 2024, which means administrators likely won’t want to spend it on recurring expenses like increasing teachers’ salaries or hiring specialists at full time to support schools.
Governor Bill Lee called the amount of funding “historic” and urged local education officials to “keep student achievement at the center of all decision-making.”
The state Department of Education’s plan to use its share of $ 491 million is due to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education on June 7.
The ministry plans to spend $ 170.5 million – one-third of its allocation – on programs that aim to help students catch up and speed up learning. These include apprenticeship camps starting this summer and after-school tutoring programs which are expected to launch in the fall.
Another $ 120.7 million will help support literacy work in a state where only a third of students test as proficient readers. The money will be used to fund new resources for classes and families and new training for teachers to base their teaching on phonetics.
This month, about 12,000 preschool to fourth grade teachers began a two-week training program under a two-year, $ 8 million contract with TNTP Inc., a goal group. non-profit that offers teacher training programs.
Other planned investments include:
– $ 56.5 million for professional development and additional resources to help teachers prepare for their classes.
– $ 35 million to support the adoption by Tennessee school districts of new math textbooks in 2022-2023.
– $ 32.6 million for grants to 21 districts to reimagine the high school to better equip students for college and careers, as well as a new program to expand access to advanced courses so that high school students can get college credits. The Tennessee-based Niswonger Foundation will recruit teachers and students into Tennessee’s new Advanced Placement Access for All program, train teachers, and help develop new programs.
– $ 32 million for online teaching and learning resources and improvements for school districts.
– $ 21 million to grow the ranks of educators in Tennessee, including personal development initiatives in which districts and teacher education programs partner to provide innovative and free ways to enter the teaching profession.
– $ 17.8 million to support student mental health through grants to school systems or new investments to help schools support students who have experienced trauma in their lives.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said her department’s spending priorities were based in part on feedback from district leaders and education advocates across Tennessee.
She plans to spend around $ 20 million to hire staff and put systems in place to monitor how federal money is spent, both at the state and local levels. This spring, the legislature authorized the department to hire 22 staff for this work.
Schwinn encouraged district leaders to use at least 1% of their federal relief and stimulus funds to establish similar surveillance protocols at the local level.
The state also has an ongoing list of grant opportunities and free resources for students, families, teachers, schools, and districts.
Some grants are competitive, such as the one to provide new equipment to state-designated schools specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math education. Other resources – like free reading materials for kids in Kindergarten to Grade 2 – are available to any family in Tennessee who orders them.
You can learn more about the State Department’s plan at bit.ly/3bJltZW.