Summer is almost over and the school year is quickly approaching so it is significant to discuss education improvements that were made this year. One of our major focuses here at the legislature is passing legislation that improves our school systems and helps to educate the youth in our state. It is important for us to continue improving and building upon legislation that we have brought forth in the past to benefit our communities. We passed key pieces of legislation this year that I believe will carry on our past efforts of improving the safety of our students, the education of our students, and the programs that are available to them while in school.
School Safety Grants – One of the most important pieces of legislation that was passed this session was SB803 that I sponsored in the Senate. This legislation was a part of the Governor’s agenda for this year and invests $40 million dollars in the state’s existing School Safety Grant Program. The new law accommodates underserved counties working to secure schools and fill SRO positions by adjusting the match requirements to be proportional with districts’ fiscal capacity.
This will help approximately 500 schools in Tennessee that do not have an SRO. It allows schools that currently have an SRO to use the grants to fund other school safety priorities, including implementation of building security measures or developing youth violence prevention programs. This legislation became law on April 18th of this year.
School Bus Safety / Video Cameras – State lawmakers voted to approve legislation this year authorizing a Local Education Agency (LEA) to place cameras on the outside of school buses to document drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus, putting students in great danger. This action follows incidents in the Knox County school system where several children have been hit by cars while at a bus stop. The new law allows LEAs to use cameras on the exterior of school buses, in coordination with local law enforcement, for the purpose of deterring drivers who fail to stop for a school bus loading or unloading students. Drivers determined to be in violation of the law will first receive a $50 fine, while subsequent violations can be prosecuted as a Class A misdemeanor.
Increasing Awareness / Work Readiness Programs -- Legislation increasing awareness for post-secondary and work readiness programs offered to high school students by their Local Education Agencies (LEAs) became law in 2019. Offering opportunities for high school students to earn college credit or a professional certification can produce extremely valuable long-term benefits and helps the state meet its Drive to 55 goal to increase post-secondary graduation rates. The new act requires notification to students and their families of all early college and career opportunities offered by the school district. Programs include work-based learning, apprenticeships, dual enrollment programs, dual credit programs, and college credit-bearing courses. The legislation also calls for listing the opportunities on the school district’s website.
TNReady Tests -- Final approval was given to legislation this session changing the way the TNReady test will be administered in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic school years. It requires that the TNReady test be administered in paper format for the 2019-2020 school year. As for the 2020-2021 academic year, the Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will be required to participate in an online verification test conducted by the Department of Education. The Commissioner of the Department of Education will then use the verification test results to determine which format to administer the TNReady test for that school year.
Middle College Program Scholarships – Legislation increasing Tennessee’s Middle College Scholarship was passed this year. Middle College is a public community college program that permits high school students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree upon graduation. Participating students have not been eligible for the Tennessee Promise Scholarship, so this award helps offset the cost of tuition and books.
Under the new statute, scholarships will increase from $600 to $1,000 per semester. The move will help in the state’s Drive to 55 efforts to get 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. This becomes law in May of this year.
You May Contact Senator Hensley at
425 5th Avenue North, Suite 746
Nashville TN 37243
Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100
855 Summertown Highway
Hohenwald TN 38462
Cell Phone 931-212-8823