Ten for Tennessee 2023

About the Award

Ten for Tennessee recognizes and celebrates the top ten policy proposals in 2023 that best advance educational equity and justice in the state.

Every legislative session, Tennessee lawmakers offer new ideas or proposed changes to programs and policies that touch the lives of millions of students across the state, from preschool through higher education. The Education Trust in Tennessee is proud to recognize the ideas that have the greatest potential to improve opportunity and access for students of color, students from lower-income communities, students with disabilities and English Learners. We will continue to monitor and support these bills as they move through the legislature this term.

Learn more about The Education Trust in Tennessee, our Tennessee Alliance for Equity in Education and our 2023 Policy Agenda.


Creating Early Learning Scholarships for Tennessee’s Youngest Learners

HB0785/SB0750 | Representative Mark White & Senator Becky Massey

In the House, HB0785 was deferred in the Education Administration Committee to the first calendar in 2024. In the Senate, SB0750 was placed on the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee calendar, which means this bill will be picked up in this committee in 2024 if the sponsor re-calendars it.
Promoting Accessible, Rigorous, and Affirming Learning Experiences

Learn More

What does this bill do?

HB0785 / SB0750  would require the TN Department of Education to create a  “Promising Futures” Scholarship Program for children through age 5 to attend high-quality early care and learning programs by July 1, 2024. This “last dollar” scholarship may be used to pay for tuition at a quality early learning program after a family utilizes other sources of child care financial aid they are eligible for such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Eligible children include those up to kindergarten age with working parents with low and middle incomes up to the state median income and/or who live with foster or adoptive parents. Parents may choose to use the scholarships for any learning program that meets Promising Futures’ quality standards, such as Head Start. To create the scholarship fund, sports gambling tax revenue – 80% of which currently goes to the state’s lottery for education account – would be placed into a Promising Futures Account for early learning and literacy.

Why does this bill matter?

Tennessee has a child care crisis. According to The Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE), the cost of childcare today is more than our average in-state college tuition. Quality childcare is unaffordable and inaccessible for most of our families. The average annual price of center-based childcare is $11,068 for infants and $10,184 for toddlers. For in-home childcare, the price is $7,194 for infants and $6,749 for toddlers. Pre-pandemic, childcare was a growing crisis for our families, especially Black and Latino families, families with low and middle incomes, and families in rural areas. A third of Tennessee children under age 6 live in families with incomes below $40,000 and nearly half with incomes less than $60,000. The COVID-19 crisis not only exacerbated existing inequities in childcare access for families, but has also decimated the finances of childcare providers. These providers are predominantly women of color and are already economically disadvantaged by systemic racism and sexism.

According to TQEE’s Report “Workforce of Today and Tomorrow: The Economics of Tennessee’s Child Care Crisis”, our businesses and taxpayers lose $2.6 billion annually in earnings and revenue. TQEE’s study analyzed survey results from 1,297 working parents with children under 6 to determine how childcare challenges adversely affect workforce participation and productivity. Their findings alarmingly showed that more than 80% of working parents reported employment disruptions such as quitting jobs or reducing job hours due to inadequate childcare. 58% of parents cited lack of affordability as a reason.  Moreover, 300,000 Tennessee children under the age of 6 have all available parents in the workforce. A study by the Urban Institute also revealed about 41% of these children have parents who work non-traditional hours, yet most child care programs operate during the week till 5 or 6 PM.

Overall, the childcare crisis continues to increase the growing workforce shortage and threatens families’ financial stability and wellbeing. Lack of high-quality, accessible, and affordable childcare can significantly impact the development of our children. The first five years of a child’s life is when the brain grows the most, rapidly expanding neural connections and wiring the brain for future learning in K – 12 and beyond. The quality of early care that children receive profoundly impacts their school readiness, development, and our communities’ future. Childcare is early education, and when it is successfully implemented, it advances early learning and literacy.


Removing Barriers for Diverse Teacher Candidates

HB1338/SB0890 | Representative Harold Love, Jr. & Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari

In the House, HB1338 was taken off notice in the Higher Education Subcommittee of the Education Administration Committee. In the Senate, SB0890 was assigned to the General Subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee. These bills will be picked up in these committees in 2024 if the sponsors re-calendar it.

HB0276/SB0231 | Representative Sam McKenzie & Senator Jeff Yarbro

In the House, HB0276 was taken off notice in the Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee of the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. In the Senate, SB0231 was placed on the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee calendar. These bills will be picked up in these committees in 2024 if the sponsors re-calendar it.
Increasing Educator Diversity & Quality

Learn More

What do these bills do?

Currently, the Minority Teaching Fellows Program provides college students of color in approved Educator Preparation Programs with a $5,000 grant in exchange for a commitment to teach in a Tennessee public school. However, if a student does not meet these obligations – either by not finishing their program or not teaching in a Tennessee public school – this grant converts to a loan with a 9% interest rate that is nearly double that of a federal student loan.

HB0276/SB0231 would increase the amount of the award provided by the Minority Teaching Fellows Program from $5,000 to the cost of tuition and fees at the respective institution, after all other aid is applied. The legislation, as amended, would also completely remove the loan component of the program, and convert the scholarship entirely to a TSAC-administered grant.

HB1338/SB0890 would remove the hefty interest rate on the repayment of scholarship loans awarded to aspiring teachers through the Minority Teaching Fellows Program. If an award recipient does not meet the obligations set forth in the program, awarded funds must still be repaid, but will no longer accrue interest.

Why do these bills matter?

At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, Tennessee schools faced a shortage of approximately 2,000 teachers. Each year Tennessee loses thousands of teachers, and there are not enough new teachers to fill the shortage. In fact, enrollment in Tennessee Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs), where most prospective teachers pursue education careers, declined almost 50% between 2010 and 2018. This problematic trend coincides with increases in educators leaving the classroom due to the stress of teaching amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the growing teacher shortage and dwindling teacher pipeline, the Tennessee teacher workforce is much less racially diverse than its student population. As of 2020, 39% of Tennessee’s public school students were students of color while only 16% of all teachers were educators of color. Over the last decade, the gap between newly licensed teachers and students of color has steadily increased.. According to the latest State Board of Education EPP Report Card, only 16% of newly licensed Tennessee teachers are educators of color. Research shows that teacher diversity has significant positive impacts on white and students of color’s social-emotional wellbeing and academic outcomes. One study even found that teacher diversity decreased the likelihood that students of color faced exclusionary discipline in school, even though these students disproportionately experience exclusionary discipline.

The United States did not always have a shortage of educators of color. Prior to Brown v. Board of Education, Black educators comprised an estimated 35-50% of the educator workforce in the 17 states with segregated school systems. After the Supreme Court ruling, over 38,000 Black teachers lost their jobs, which undoubtedly has lasting impacts today. Student underrepresentation and the lack of diversity in the teacher workforce in Tennessee is a decades-long issue stemming from this decimation of the Black educator pipeline. Overall, there are many ways that Tennessee must continue improving the institutional support and long-term retention of our state’s teaching workforce. Reducing the cost of becoming an educator for prospective teachers of color and removing concerningly high interest rates are  important steps to supporting a diverse teacher pipeline.


Building Robust College & Career Pathways in Rural Districts

HB0849/SB0999 | Representative Kirk Haston & Senator Ken Yager

In the House, HB0849 was taken off notice in the Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee of the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. In the Senate, SB0999 was placed on the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee calendar. These bills will be picked up in these committees in 2024 if the sponsors re-calendar it.
Awarded for Expanding Access & Success in Higher Education

Learn More

What does this bill do?

SB0999/HB0849 enacts the “Rural Schools Innovation Act,” requiring  the TN Department of Education to establish a two-year pilot program that expands access to high quality college and career pathways for students in grades 9-12 living in rural areas. This bill gives grants to rural pathway partnerships that help students reach high quality career pathways. The partnerships include an agreement between two to  three rural districts, at least one higher education institution, and at least one workforce focused entity.  This agreement must include measurable performance goals aligned with college and career readiness measures, longitudinal postsecondary participation and employment outcomes, and regional labor market projections for high wage, in demand careers. Subject to appropriations, the total amount of grants given to partnership is $3 million. The department shall award competitive grants to at least one partnership from each grand division, which will be overseen by an intermediary organization authorized to contract and employ staff.

Why does this bill matter?

Investing in Tennessee’s rural schools is critical. Approximately one in three Tennessee students attends a rural school, totaling nearly 300,000 students. According to the Tennessee Rural Education Association, nearly half of all Tennessee school districts are in rural areas. Our rural communities contain hundreds of unique communities and circumstances, as rural students are spread throughout our state’s 95 counties in areas with varied levels of poverty and economic opportunity.  Rural communities have become more diverse, and Tennessee’s growing Latino and immigrant population has moved to rural areas in response to the demand for workers in agriculture.

Rural schools encounter challenges when accessing essential resources. They have less industries and tax bases to support their schools and face barriers recruiting and retaining high quality educators. On average, rural schools serve fewer students. Their smaller size can make it difficult to get adequate resources to serve specific student groups. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted Tennessee’s digital divide and showed how rural schools had notably less access to high-speed internet. Two thirds of rural educators reported that they needed better internet access  to support their students during remote learning.

Opportunities for early postsecondary opportunities like dual enrollment are often limited as colleges and universities are often farther from rural communities . Due to barriers such as lack of transportation and access to AP and dual enrollment courses, rural students – especially rural students of color – need targeted support. For instance, Latino high school students in rural schools are two times less likely to score 21 or more on their ACT test compared to their White peers, and Black students are three times less likely. Overall, this bill provides a unique partnership opportunity to better support our rural communities, and the two year pilot program would help increase our understanding of best rural investment strategies.


Increasing Access to Summer Learning Camps & Transportation

Proposed Budget: $60.8 million for Summer Learning Camps & $10 million for Summer Learning Camp Transportation

Final: Approximately $27.2 million for summer learning camps was included in the Governor’s budget bill, HB0068 / SB0249.

The accompanying legislation is HB0068/SB0249

Governor Bill Lee, House Majority Leader William Lamberth, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson

Public Chapter 144
The accompanying legislation to the budget proposal was HB0068/SB0249. HB0068 passed the House Floor with a vote of 89-0 and SB0249 passed the Senate Floor with a vote of 33-0. This bill was signed by the Governor, and became law as Public Chapter 144.
Addressing Funding & Resource Equity

Learn More

What does this budget proposal do?

Governor Lee proposed expanded summer learning opportunities, allocating $60.8 million in recurring funds to extend summer learning camps annually for lower grades, as well as $10 million in recurring funding for transportation to summer learning camps. In addition to this investment, the proposal expands the eligibility age to now include students from kindergarten through 9th grade. These investments and changes will provide additional learning time to students across the state.

Why does this budget proposal matter?

As part of the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act, Tennessee established summer learning camps in the summer of 2021 to address the impact of COVID-19 on student learning. While these summer learning camps overlap with another provision in the law on 3rd- and 4th-grade retention, the standalone support of summer learning camps can help prepare them to succeed during the following school year. Research shows that offering summer learning programs for multiple years is best for creating long-term impacts on student achievement. These summer learning camps prioritize students who are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or are designated as priority students based on various measures of math and English language arts proficiency on the TCAP test.

While the status of the retention provision is shifting during session as the Tennessee General Assembly has introduced at least nineteen different pieces of legislation that propose a range of changes to the original law, the summer learning camps can lead to positive impacts on students’ academic development. Overall, the additional targeted funding for summer learning camps and bus transportation would enhance learning opportunities for our students.


Protecting the Teaching of Truthful History & Tennessee’s Libraries

HB0736/SB0872 | Representative Harold Love, Jr & Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari

Public Chapter 127
HB0736 passed the House Floor with a vote of 94-0 and SB0872 passed the Senate Floor with a vote of 28-2. This bill was signed by the Governor, and became law as Public Chapter 127.

HB1040/SB1078 | Representative Darren Jernigan & Senator Jeff Yarbro

In the House, HB1040 failed in the Subcommittee of Education Administration. In the Senate, SB1078 passed 30-3.
Supporting Students Social, Emotional, & Academic Development

Learn More

What do these bills do?

HB0736/SB0872 would change the language of “urges” to “requires” Tennessee’s standards recommendation committee to include certain academic standards regarding the civil rights movement in its final recommendation of academic standards in social studies for students in 9th – 12th grade.

HB1040/SB1078 would amend current law set by the Age Appropriate Materials Act (Public Chapter 744) and removes materials obtained by an individual teacher in their classroom library from having to be posted on the school’s website and subject to the development, review, and feedback process established by the LEA or public charter school governing body.

Why do these bills matter?

Schools must be an inclusive, safe, and nurturing environment so that all children can learn to tackle complex issues. To do so, schools must teach a diverse, challenging curriculum, and students need to engage with materials that reflect the rich, honest history of all students and our world. However, since 2021, 44 states have introduced bills or taken steps toward restricting the so-called teaching of critical race theory (CRT), banning books, or censoring the way in which race and other “divisive concepts” can be discussed. Tennessee ranked number one with the most laws in the country that passed restricting what students and teachers can do and say in the classroom.

From improved racial and cultural awareness to enhanced critical thinking skills and higher levels of community belonging, research shows that a diverse curriculum in schools leads to better academic outcomes. The Civil Rights Movement is an integral part of Black history and Tennessee’s history. While Black history is core to the social studies curriculum, most history classes only devote one or two lessons on it, or 8% of total class time. When students engage thoughtfully with historical concepts and current issues, they build crucial problem-solving and interpersonal skills that enable them to participate as effective citizens and inclusive leaders in the classroom and beyond.

At the classroom level, educators are responsible to encourage students’ reading abilities and foster early literacy skills by providing an accessible, quality classroom library. In a national political climate where threats for book banning and censorship are growing and in a state where only 29% of students are reading on grade level, Tennessee’s current law exacerbates burdensome and unnecessary processes. Staff need to dedicate their time to fostering student growth and love for reading amidst schools’ pandemic recovery efforts. Overall, both of these bills are important to protecting students’ access to fact-based history curriculum and comprehensive classroom libraries.

To follow advocacy efforts and actions related to the censorship movement in Tennessee, learn more at the TN Coalition for Truth in Our Classrooms resource hub.


Expanding Tennessee Reconnect Eligibility for Pandemic-Impacted Students

HB1114/SB0968 | Representative Justin Lafferty and Senator Bill Powers

In the House, HB1114 was taken off notice in the Higher Education Subcommittee of the Education Administration Committee. In the Senate, SB0968 was placed on the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee calendar. These bills will be picked up in these committees in 2024 if the sponsors re-calendar it.
Expanding Access & Success in Higher Education

Learn More

What does this bill do?

HB1114/SB0968 would expand eligibility for the Tennessee Reconnect Grant due to COVID-19. It would include students who will be 21 or older by January 1 of the year they plan to enroll in college, as long as they did one of three things between 2019 and 2021: (1) graduated from a Tennessee high school or homeschool, (2) earned a GED or HiSET diploma before turning 19, or (3) graduated from an out-of-state high school operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA).

Why does this bill matter?

The Tennessee Reconnect program traditionally gives adult learners (ages 23-64) the opportunity to earn an associate degree, technical degree, or technical diploma. This bill gives those impacted by the pandemic another opportunity to pursue a degree or credential through the program. Since 2019, the college-going rate in Tennessee has rapidly declined by 9 percentage points, likely due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a similarly sized cohort of high school graduates, nearly 7,000 less seniors in the Class of 2021 enrolled in a postsecondary institution. Concerningly, the college-going decline has particularly impacted students of color, with nearly 30 percent of Black and 25 percent of Latino high school students indicating that the pandemic impacted their post-high school plans.

Accessible and affordable higher education for adult learners is critical to ensure Tennesseans have access to new skills, career advancement, and economic mobility. Further, increased accessibility to higher education has a positive impact on economic growth. Targeted support is required to close this gap and support adult learners to complete high-quality postsecondary programs.. The Complete Tennessee Leadership Institute points out that since 2010, 65% of new job openings require at least some advanced education. Expanding eligibility requirements to give COVID-19-impacted students a second chance to pursue postsecondary education would help meet these labor market demands. Further, research shows that postsecondary education is instrumental in economic mobility and employment outcomes. Many students, particularly students of color, are deterred by the financial barriers of pursuing postsecondary education. The pandemic likely further adds to these economic concerns of pursuing higher education after high school, compounding with the already disproportionate economic impact on communities of color. In light of the already-declining college-going rate that has particularly impacted Black and Latino students, this bill would provide critical support to combatting this recent decline.

As a state that leads in postsecondary reforms aimed to improve access and degree completion, legislators introduced this proposal to preserve and sustain efforts to increase widespread postsecondary enrollment and attainment. Overall, this proposal to expand Tennessee Reconnect eligibility to pandemic-impacted students through January 1, 2027 is a positive step toward combating the declining college-going rates in the state.


Investing in Targeted 9th Grade Student Success Supports

HB1295/SB0884 | House Leader Karen D. Camper & Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari

Public Chapter 322
HB1295 passed the House Floor with a vote of 81-0, with 11 Present Not Voting. SB0884 passed the Senate Floor with a vote of 26-3. This bill was signed by the Governor, and became law as Public Chapter 322.
Promoting Accessible, Rigorous, and Affirming Learning Experiences

Learn More

What does this bill do?

HB1295/SB0884 would require the TN Department of Education (TDOE) to conduct a study of best practices in other states for the use of ninth grade “on-track” indicators in state accountability systems to prevent students from dropping out of high school. This study must include, but it not limited to, researching how states define high school success; develop specific indicators to identify students at-risk of dropping out; develop and use statewide dropout early warning systems in the middle and high school grades; and utilize methods to publicly report relevant data on on-track high school success indicators. This bill would also require TDOE to submit a report of the outcomes of the study required in this section to the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Administration Committee by January 31, 2024. Lastly, this bill would require DOE to publish the report on the department’s website.

Why does this bill matter?

Understanding 9th “on-track” indicators in Tennessee is important research to ensure we have the necessary information needed to create a system of support in this critical year that determines graduation success. If the TN Department of Education conducts this study, our state will be better prepared to address these gaps. There is a growing body of research that suggests the first year of high school is a critical transition point for students (sometimes called the “make or break year”). It also finds course-taking and completion of those courses in 9th grade to be valuable predictors of students’ success in high school.

Students who are ‘on-track’ at the end of their 9th-grade year are up to four times more likely to graduate from high school than their off-track peers. 9th-grade ‘on-track’ is defined by earning at least a quarter of the credits needed for graduation and receiving no more than one “F” in a core course. This 9th-grade metric predicts a student’s likelihood of graduating more accurately than race, ethnicity, poverty level, and prior test scores combined. Nationwide, 9th graders are three to five times more likely to fail a class than students in any other grade. Further, for every full year that a 9th grade student fails, their chances of graduating high school in four years decreases by 30%.

We have seen 9th grade success work in Memphis through Center for High School Success’ Freshman Success Network, which is in 26 public high schools, both traditional and charter schools. The Center for High School Success currently partners with 128 high schools in 50 districts across five states to increase their 9th grade on-track rates. In Memphis, Stand for Children TN/Center for High School Success has expanded implementation of the Memphis Freshman Success Network (FSN) to 26 public traditional and charter high schools, reaching about 3,000 9th graders freshman and 80 educators. The Memphis FSN includes intentional professional development, academic and personal coaching, and data support that helps schools and districts make informed policy decisions to benefit 9th grade learning. In the 2021 – 2022 school year, Memphis FSN had a gain of 16 percentage points in the 9th grade on-track rate. Prior to the program’s introduction, the freshman on-track rate was only 29%, but during the 2021-22 school year, 83% of freshman students in partner FSN schools were on-track to graduate on time.

Overall, research and the promising Memphis FSN results highlight the need to study 9th grade on-track measures and expand high school freshman support across Tennessee. However, this bill is necessary to get information on best practices in other states and how it relates to Tennessee. According to the TN Higher Education Commission (THEC), in their report “College Going and the Class of 2021,” there was a significant decline in college going rates following the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 9% drop since 2019 and an overall college-going rate of 52.8 %. The college going rate – the rate at which high school graduates seamlessly enroll in college immediately after graduation – was alarmingly worse for our Black and Latino students. Researching 9th grade supports is an essential step towards addressing the college- going gap, as the transition from 8th grade to high school is a critical year that impacts graduation rates.


Improving Food Access & Security by Continuing K-12 Free Meals Program

HB0255/SB0208 | Representative Kevin Raper & Senator Adam Lowe

n the House, HB0255 was taken off notice in the K-12 Subcommittee of the Education Administration Committee. In the Senate, SB0208 was referred to the Senate Education Committee. These bills will be picked up in these committees in 2024 if the sponsors re-calendar it.
Supporting Students Social, Emotional, & Academic Development

Learn More

What does this bill do?

HB0255/SB0208 requires each local school board to establish a free meals program for breakfast and lunch to each student enrolled in a school under the board’s jurisdiction. Additionally, it requires that the state reimburse each local education agency (LEA) for the cost of this program after all available federal funds have been applied.

Why does this bill matter?

Food access and security for children of all stages in their life is critical to their development. Too many students – especially Black students, Latino students, and students from low-income backgrounds – experience food insecurity. A 2021 child health survey found that 1 in 3 Tennessee families experienced food insecurity, and this rate fluctuates depending on the region and population. In the survey, roughly 41% of Black families reported food insecurity, compared to 29% of White families. Furthermore, low-income communities, particularly communities of color, are more likely to experience food apartheid (more commonly known as “food deserts”) where there is limited access to healthy and affordable food or grocery stores. Consequently, many students do not have access to a basic need, and this impacts their physical and mental health.

Research shows that hunger has direct adverse effects on students’ academic performance. Providing meals in school is important to support students’ cognitive and social, emotional, and academic development. During the pandemic between the end of 2019 and July 2020, child hunger escalated from 4% to 14.4%. Some families also report that they are over the income eligibility limit for free meals but still struggle to pay bills because the bar is high to qualify for services.

Adequate and nutritious food for students and their families is fundamental to education equity. As cuts to the federal universal school meals program put more students at risk of going hungry, students are increasingly vulnerable to food insecurity, which negatively impacts their academic and social-emotional wellbeing. This legislation is an important step in ensuring all students are physically, socially, and academically supported in schools.


Establishing a Fund for Educator License Reimbursements

HB0784/SB0556 | Representative Mark White & Senator Bill Powers

In the House, HB0784 was taken off notice in the Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee of the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. In the Senate, SB0556 was placed on the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee calendar. These bills will be picked up in these committees in 2024 if the sponsors re-calendar it.
Increasing Educator Diversity & Quality

Learn More

What does this bill do?

HB0784/SB0556 requires the TN Department of Education to reimburse educators for licensure assessments as long as the educator: (1) receives a qualifying score and (2) receives a new TN teaching license or – if they are already working as a teacher – an additional teaching endorsement. This bill also includes a requirement for the TN State Board of Education to publish a report by September 1, 2024 with the number of educators reimbursed and the type of license or endorsement earned by each educator.

Why does this bill matter?

Across the country, 44% of U.S. public schools reported teacher vacancies in 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing teacher shortages, which is reflected in our ongoing struggles to attract and retain staff – especially in critical areas such as STEM, early childhood education, special education, and bilingual education. According to the Tennessee State Board of Education, during the 2021 – 2022 school year, there were 1,024 teacher vacancies throughout Tennessee. Vacancies were distributed relatively evenly among elementary, middle, and high schools. Further, the number of educators graduating from the 43 teacher training programs across the state has dropped by nearly 20% over five years, with much of that decline happening even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

By 2028, Tennessee will have a projected 5,090 average annual openings for K-12 teaching positions. Taking the above into consideration, there is a clear and urgent need to support our prospective teachers by making the pathway to become an educator more accessible. Depending on the subject, taking the required tests can cost hundreds of dollars, and some people may need to pay more to retake the tests before passing. Currently, teachers must pay many of these fees out of their own pocket. Studying for and completing various assessments is an burdensome process on top of other training program requirements, and the financial implications could dissuade candidates from wanting to teach.

Reducing financial burdens of licensure exams is an important step to increasing the pool of highly qualified, effective, and diverse teachers by supporting licensure candidates of color. In 2021, the TN Department of Education identified the importance of recruiting and retaining educators of color in relation to addressing teacher shortages. Overall, there are many ways that Tennessee must continue improving the institutional support and long-term retention of our teaching workforce, and reimbursing educators for licensure and endorsement exams represents a step in the right direction.


Banning Pre-Kindergarten to 2nd Grade Suspensions & Expulsions

HB0368/SB0322 | Representative Harold Love, Jr. & Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari

In the House, HB0368 was taken off notice in the K-12 Subcommittee of the Education Administration Committee, which means this bill will be picked up in this committee in 2024 if the sponsor re-calendars it. In the Senate, SB0322 was deferred in the Senate Education Committee to the second calendar of 2024.
Supporting Students Emotional & Academic Development

Learn More

What does this bill do?

HB0368 / SB0322 would prohibit Local Education Agencies (LEA) from suspending or expelling a student enrolled in pre-kindergarten through second grade. If a student’s behavior is endangering the physical safety of others, this bill would limit the suspension to no more than three days and would require students to become emotionally regulated, including letting their anger, fear, or anxiety subside, before they are suspended. In addition, schools would be required to notify the student’s parent or legal guardian of the student’s suspension on the day the suspension takes place.

Why does this bill matter?

Banning pre-kindergarten to second grade suspensions would have a foundational impact on students’ social, emotional, and academic development. Prohibiting exclusionary discipline in the early grades would encourage our school districts to prioritize trauma-informed and restorative justice practices that help students self-regulate their emotions and behavior, support childhood growth and development, and build healthy learning environments. Research shows that it is not developmentally appropriate to expect students in early childhood education to be able to fully self-regulate, even though many teachers resort to punitive discipline practices. Instead, teachers should provide students with the prerequisite social-emotional skills needed to self-regulate. Further, supporting students’ self-regulation in early childhood supports the effectiveness of early education for all children.

Data shows that suspending students fails to reduce future misbehavior. Instead, it may exacerbate student misconduct. Suspension also negatively impacts student outcomes. Particularly among young children, suspensions are linked to poor academic outcomes and negative feelings towards school. These outcomes make students significantly more likely to drop out of school or be pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline. Additionally, research shows that suspensions do not improve outcomes for non-suspended students.

Suspension also causes students to miss essential class time and learning opportunities. Cycles of lost class time cause students to fall further behind their peers, which is especially harmful during the pre-kindergarten through second-grade years when students are learning foundational literacy and math skills. Long-term negative impacts of suspension include lower academic achievement and an increased likelihood of future interactions with the criminal legal system. However, students who go to schools with lower suspension rates are more likely to have higher long-term academic success and attend four-year colleges.

Exclusionary discipline practices of suspension and expulsion first emerged in the 1960s as schools were being racially integrated. Overall, exclusionary discipline practices like suspensions result in damage to a student’s development through harmful policies. Finding alternatives to suspension is a tool to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and reduce exclusionary discipline practices that disproportionately punish students of color and students with disabilities. Tennessee can further influence district policies and school disciplinary actions by setting clear goals to reduce disparities and overuses in discipline, ensuring a strong set of data is publicly available on an annual basis, and adopting more positive approaches and practices.