Senator Southerland provides update on Nashville news

Steve’s Senate in a Minute

TISA Advances

The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA), which would overhaul the state’s funding formula for public education, advanced out of the Education Committee this week. It will be reviewed by the Finance, Ways and Means Committee next week.

TISA (Senate Bill 2396) would change the state’s funding formula for the first time in more than 30 years from a district-based model to a student-based model.

Starting in the 2023-24 school year, TISA would invest an estimated $9 billion in education funding for the state, including state and local funds, which would include an additional recurring state investment of $1 billion.

TISA would award each school district a base amount of $6,860 per student that is meant to cover the basics of education such as teacher and staff salaries, facility operations, and more. There would be additional funding weights for students who need extra support, such as those who are economically disadvantaged, live in a rural area, or have a unique learning need, among other criteria. The formula would also provide “direct funding” for programs that offer students learning opportunities beyond everyday classroom instruction, as well as outcomes-based funding for districts that meet certain performance goals. There is also a provision in the bill that would provide a grant to distressed counties and to Sevier County that would offset some of their local match requirements subject to appropriations.

Voter Integrity

Senate Bill 2245 prohibits non-U.S. citizens from participating in federal, state, or local elections in Tennessee. The bill passed out of the State and Local Government Committee this week.

The bill also gives additional tools to the coordinator of elections to identify non-U.S. citizens on the voter rolls as well as Tennesseans who’ve moved to another state.

COVID-19 Visitation

Senate Bill 2574 makes it clear that nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be required to allow a resident to have visitors not only during normal conditions, but also during an end-of-life situation if a disaster, emergency, or public health emergency for COVID-19 has been declared. The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate this week.

The bill stipulates that visitors must agree to follow safety protocols and cannot exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or other communicable diseases, and cannot violate federal or state law regulating each facility.

 Religious Institutions

A bill that would prohibit restrictions on religious organizations during emergencies received Senate approval this week.

Senate Bill 1197 would prohibit the state, political subdivisions, or public officials from limiting the lawful operations of a church or religious organization during a state of emergency or natural disaster.

Anti-Semitism in Schools

The Education Committee this week advanced a bill seeking to prevent anti-Semitism in schools.

Senate Bill 2684 as amended defines anti-Semitism, prohibits anti-Semitic acts in schools, and requires schools to investigate complaints alleging discriminatory anti-Semitic acts within 90 days.

Computer Science

Senate Bill 2406 requires the Department of Education to adopt standards for computer science education by the 2023-2024 school year. Under the bill, by the 2024-2025 school year all high school students would be required to take a full year of computer science education in order to graduate and middle schoolers would have to take at least one computer science course.

Veterans with Disabilities

Senate Bill 2551 authorizes the issuance of a disabled veteran registration plate to a veteran with a service-connected disability without payment of a fee.

Effectiveness Scores

Senate Bill 1986 aims to remove a negative incentive for high performing teachers to teach at low performing schools. The bill allows teachers to rely more heavily on observation for the Level of Overall Effectiveness scores during adoption years, helping to reduce the negative incentive. The bill shifts the policy to instead encourage, rather than harm, high performing teachers to teach at struggling schools.

Thank you for reading this edition! Please continue to keep an eye out for unclaimed funds letters from my office. I encourage you to contact my office to share your thoughts and concerns. My office can be reached by phone at: (800) 449-8366, extension: 13851 or by e-mail at: sen.steve.southerland@capitol.tn.gov. Thank you for the honor to serve you in state government and God bless!