By TEA Interim Executive Director Terrance J. Gibson — As we gear up for 2021 General Assembly, legislators and policymakers need to be reminded over and over that throughout the past nine months educators have continued to do their jobs.
Educators are serving their communities whether buildings are physically open or not. Educators are ensuring students have food to eat, communicating with families and creating virtual curriculum, all while tackling the unanticipated issues that come with teaching during a pandemic.
Though it may be some time before we truly know the long-term academic impacts of COVID-19 on our teaching and learning environment, what we do know is that educators have continued to do their jobs through it all.
Resource gaps that existed prior to the spring tornadoes and global pandemic have now been amplified by this medical crisis that has also created a financial crisis. As the legislature convenes, it is pivotal that we as educators are engaged through advocacy efforts to strengthen the awareness of the roles educators continue to play and the critical financial needs of public education.
While some question the effectiveness of our public schools as many districts bounced between in-person, virtual and hybrid learning environment, the one constant has been the commitment and focus of Tennessee educators. In all instances, educators continued to teach and support students as they fought through one disruption after another over the past nine months.
While some shifted to online instructions, our schools never closed. Educators proved that lack of access to buildings or technological resources would not stop them from engaging their students academically and supporting the social and emotional needs of students.
Now it is time for those who took the oath of public office to do their jobs and support Tennessee students and educators.
The General Assembly now has the opportunity and ability to recognize and reward the dedication of Tennessee educators by funding educator pay raises and bonuses.
In addition, legislators can limit further disruptions to instruction by suspending testing and evaluations. Waiving LOEs is not enough. Only suspension of state testing and teacher evaluations will protect much- needed time to teach.
WE must educate and remind legislators that it is their turn to serve their communities. They can do this by creating the funding to support educator raises and bonuses and providing relief from disruptive standardized testing and evaluations.