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News & Press: Policy Update

State of the State, Teacher Prep, Guns on Campus

Thursday, February 13, 2020  
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Student Aid Increases in Governor Lee's Budget 

      Governor Bill Lee released his budget during his State of the State Address.  Included is a $9.6 million improvement in the Tennessee Student Assistance Award.  The improvement will move the qualifying combined family income of four from $30,000 per year to $44,000.  This key adjustment will fund an additional 5,700 students. 

Governor Lee Seeks To Improve Literacy 


Governor Lee’s administration introduced a bill (SB2160/HB229) to address early literacy.  The bill seeks to improve literacy through scientific and evidenced based phonics instruction.  The focus is on districts which have K-3 students reading below expectations.  Those districts with 3rd grade reading proficiencies above 15% of the state average and with institutions with at least 55% of reading proficiency will be exempt.

The bill requires that Education Preparation Providers (EPP) must have their K-3 teacher and administrative leadership candidates pass a test developed or identified by the department that tests the candidate's knowledge of evidence-based and scientifically-based reading instruction in order to receive a teacher license.  Too, college and university professors teaching in the K-3 space must have an active teacher license to teach or have the requirement waived by the Department. 

Interestingly, the bill goes further to require all EPP programs to submit information about college cost and student loan burdens of EPP graduates.  The bill states, “A joint analysis with the Tennessee higher education commission regarding affordability of educator preparation providers, including tuition affordability for future educators, costs relative to peer institutions in other states, student loan and debt burden of educator preparation provider graduates, an assessment of financial barriers that may prevent high school graduates and career changers from pursuing teaching as a profession, and the ability to reduce the costs of offering educator preparation and credentials.” 


Teacher Preparation 

      In his State of the State address, Governor Lee announced two key initiatives for teacher preparation.  Lee revealed the creation of the Tennessee Teacher and Leader Institute.  According to the budget documents, this will be a Tennessee-based teacher and leader training institute. The institute would provide access to national experts, unique curriculum and innovation labs. Lee set aside $20 million non-recurring/$5 million recurring for the Institute. 
To increase student support to enter the teaching profession Lee announced the creation of the Governor’s Fellowship Initiative.  The initiative will work in tandem with Tennessee Promise and will provide $8.5 million to identify and support the college education of 1,000 high school seniors and college freshman who are willing to commit to teaching in a Tennessee public school. 

Guns On Campus 

      Sen. Janice Bowling and Rep. Rush Bricken have filed a bill (SB2288/HB2102) which would allow persons with a valid conceal and carry permit to carry weapons on a public college or university campus.  The bill outlines the scope of the carry provision in this way, “On property owned, operated, or controlled by the public institution of higher education at which the student is registered.”  At this time, TICUA member institutions are not included in this bill.