Tennessee’s General Assembly went into its regular session Monday and fingers are once again crossed for a Hold Harmless Bill pertaining to BEP funding.
“They did not take up BEP Hold Harmless in the special session,” said Warren County Director of Schools Grant Swallows. “I am very hopeful they will take that up. I think you will find that directors like myself will not let that issue die. We are going to push for them to take that up during the general session.”
County Commissioner Robert Hennessee prompted the response during a county Education Committee meeting held Monday night when he asked if the Hold Harmless Bill approved during the special session pertained to BEP funding.
“Same language. Different bill,” said Swallows.
The Hold Harmless Bill approved during the special session pertained to teacher accountability when it comes to testing. Teachers won’t be responsible for how students do on benchmark tests administered at the end of the year.
However, a Hold Harmless Bill pertaining to BEP funding was not addressed. Approval of one will guarantee each school district will not be penalized financially if the pandemic creates a negative impact on student enrollment. K-12 education funding from the state is based on student enrollment.
Swallows had previously voiced concern for decreased enrollment triggering funding cuts from the state. He hopes a Hold Harmless Bill will be approved to provide each district with the same funding given the year prior.
“One of the great concerns we have is related to funding,” said Swallows. “Every school system that I’m aware of has seen a downturn in enrollment. More families are choosing to do home school. A number of families have the choice of whether they start their students in kindergarten or wait a year until hopefully we get out of this worldwide pandemic. We’ve seen numbers go down. That directly affects our funding. We are hoping the legislature will draft a bill that would hold systems harmless and fund us at a rate that is based on normal enrollment for last year.”