Fight over in-person learning and education funding continues in Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The ongoing battle between the state and our schools over in-person learning took a new twist.

During a special legislative session last week a proposed bill that would’ve taken money away from schools died.

Even though the bill didn’t pass, the fight over state funding is still ongoing.

House Education Chairman Mark White said state funding is based on student attendance, but it’s difficult to track with virtual learning.

On the other hand, an SCS spokesperson argues the district is constantly trying to keep up with student attendance but she agrees that enrollment is down this year from last.

“Where are these children,” asked White. “You know, are they online? Are they out and running around? Maybe they moved. We don’t know.”

House Education Chairman Mark White wants students back in class as soon as possible.

During a special legislative session last week, a bill suggested removing funding from schools if there isn’t an in-person learning option for 70 days this year and 180 days next year but it didn’t pass.

SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray argued it never should have gotten that far and those decisions need to be made at the local level.

“Please don’t hurt my children,” said Dr. Ray. “I don’t think it’s intentional but the decision of grown-ups show children their true colors because when you advocate for in-person learning against the decisions of a duly elected school board you abridge the essence of local control and run the risk of hurting our children.”

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Even though that bill died, Representative White said schools could still lose funding next year, if there isn’t an in-person learning option.

“It will eventually affect funding because you will continue to lose students,” said White. “That’s been proven now for the past year.”

Right now, SCS plans on starting in-person learning the second week of February and the school spokesperson said parents should prepare for the gradual reopening.

During an interview with FOX13 on January 7, Dr. Ray said he’s considering waiting until 2022 for students and teachers to return in person.

Saturday, Dr. Ray talked to CNN about President Joe Biden’s goal of returning to in-person learning in 100 days.

“It’s a goal and not a targeted fix date,” said Ray. “When you have a targeted fix date and the numbers are still spiraling out of control as it is here, it makes it very difficult.”

Representative White said he plans on reaching out to Dr. Ray to come up with a solution.

“Dr. Ray we are here to help you,” said White. “We understand the virus and take it seriously but there are a lot of things that damage our children, not just the virus.”

SCS said the plan is to return in-person the second week of February.

If there are any changes, the school district said parents will be notified sooner rather than later.

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