Statement from TEA President Beth Brown: “TEA has serious concerns about the emergency rule and reopening policy passed by the Tennessee State Board of Education this week. As we have stated since March, educator input should be prioritized when developing plans for safely reopening public schools. It is evident from what was passed this week that classroom teachers were not included in the process in any meaningful way.
Just a few weeks ago elected leaders and parents reaffirmed their respect and adoration for the difficult job our educators do and the way we stepped up when the school year abruptly shifted to distance learning. Grand proclamations were made about the pay increase all educators deserve. Now here we are – just days after the Tennessee General Assembly went from a 4% raise, to a 2% raise, to a bonus, to absolutely nothing for Tennessee teachers – with this new policy and rule asking teachers to increase their workload and do even more with even less.
The new rule and policy fail to adequately address inequities across the state, specifically for students with limited or no access to internet and our most vulnerable students in special education and ELL programs. The policy does not clearly address the significant impacts to students’ learning environment and educators’ working conditions. The policy does not explain how parents are supposed to support their children at home while working themselves, and it completely ignores the fact that many teachers are parents of school-aged children themselves. The guidance in the policy for local districts to request waivers is vague and includes no requirement to include educator and parent voices.
Every option provided by the state requires more money, more supplies, more time and more support – things that are in very short supply already.
Educators are eager to get back into school buildings. We miss our kids. But we also need to feel safe and supported when schools reopen. We need our voices to be heard and our expertise valued when making these big decisions on how to reopen schools. What we have seen so far from leaders in Nashville falls short.”