Lawmakers consider bill to give governor executive control to open schools

TENNESSEE — Shelby County Schools is now the last district in the state of Tennessee that has not returned to in-person learning and has been firm on its decision to hold off on in-person learning.

State lawmakers are now considering a new bill that could override that decision and give Governor Bill Lee the power to force a return.

RELATED: TN teachers, parents urge governor to give vaccines before reopening schools

Republican Senator Brian Kelsey has filed legislation that would give Lee the power to issue an executive order to override county leadership’s decision to delay. 

Senate Bill 103 would authorize local school boards to consult with local health departments on whether or not to close schools to in-person learning, but if Lee calls for an emergency executive order to open schools, then that takes precedent.

Kelsey’s office sent us this statement:

“My message to Shelby County Schools is clear, please listen to the parents. For those who are comfortable, that’s perfectly fine. But for those who are wanting to come back, we have to give them that opportunity.”

RELATED: SCS Superintendent won’t provide reopening date after decision to delay again

He said mandated directives should only come from elected leaders who are accountable to the people they serve.

State Representatives like London Lamar and Antonio Parkinson opposed Kelsey’s proposal. They said the decision should be left in the hands of local leaders.

“We need to prioritize a mandatory mask mandate here in the state of Tennessee and we need to trust our local leaders like the superintendent to make the best decision for the school district they run. We shouldn’t be overstepping their leadership at a time where public safety is at risk,” said Lamar.

The bill will go to the senate education commission on February 10.