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News & Press: Policy Update

Policy Update: FAST Act Passes Senate and More!

Friday, June 12, 2020  
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FAST Act Passes Senate


     

The Senate took up the FAST Act (SB2097/HB2157) to remove the cost provisions which created the fiscal note.  Sponsors of the bill include Sen. Dolores Gresham and Rep. Gary Hicks. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission drafted the bill which serves as a comprehensive update to several higher education programs.  

Below is a summary provided by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation of the items that remain in the bill. Provisions that remain in year one will take effect with the 2020-21 academic year.  Provisions in year two of the Act will take effect with the 2021-22 academic year.

Year 1 (2020-21)

  • Adds certificate as a terminating event for Tennessee Promise
  • Eliminates the Tennessee Math & Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program by no longer accepting initial applications after August 1, 2020. Renewal applications only will be accepted after this date. 

Year 2 (2021-22)

  • Eliminates the Tennessee Teaching Scholars Program (TTSP) by no longer accepting initial applications after August 1, 2020. Renewal applications only will be accepted after this date.
  • Adds Program of Study for the following programs
  1. Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA)
  2. Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships (TELS), including Tennessee Reconnect
  3. Tennessee Promise
  • Amends the Minority Teaching Fellows Program (MTFP) to require junior, senior, or graduate-level status only to receive the award

The bill passed in the Senate chamber on June 4th.  It is on the calendar for the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee and anticipated to move to the House chamber early next week.



Tennessee Safe Harbor and Recovery Act Passes Senate 


      The Tennessee Safe Harbor and Recovery Act (SB2381/HB2623) which provides legal protection for those entities substantially complying with governmental endorsed guidelines related to COVID-19, passed the Senate chamber on Thursday with a vote of 26 aye, 0 nay, and 4 present not voting.  Senate sponsor, Mike Bell, worked closely with the 30 plus association members of Safe Harbor coalition to get the bill passed.

House sponsor Michael Curcio is carrying the companion bill.  The House version passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week and will be considered on the House floor on Monday, June 15.  If the House does not substitute and conform to the Senate version, the House and Senate speakers will name a conference committee to iron out the differences. 
 

Tennessee Commission on Education Recovery and Innovation    


      Sen. Dolores Gresham moved a bill (SB1974/HB2470) through the Senate which creates the Tennessee Commission on Education Recovery and Innovation.  The Commission is created to examine the short and long-term systemic effects that the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters of 2020 have had on the state's educational systems. According to the bill, “the commission shall advise and make recommendations to the General Assembly, the State Board of Education, the Department of Education, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and the state institutions of higher education on strategies to close educational gaps resulting from school COVID-19 related closures, and to modernize the state's educational structure from kindergarten to career in order to create more flexibility in the delivery of education to students.” 

The Commission is composed of the following nine (9) members. Three persons appointed by the Governor; three persons appointed by the Speaker of the Senate; and three persons appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. In making appointments, the appointing authorities shall strive to include directors of schools, leaders of higher education institutions, educators, and community and major business leaders. 

The Commission is required to submit an initial assessment of the effect the COVID19 pandemic has had on Tennessee's educational systems to the General Assembly no later than January 1, 2021. The Commission shall submit a report on the Commission's actions, findings, and recommendations to the General Assembly no later than January 1, 2022, and shall submit a final report on the Commission's actions, findings, and recommendations to the General Assembly no later than June 30, 2022.

The bill is expected to be heard in the House chamber early next week.