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ACS Board of Edu. advocates educational priorities in 2024 Legislative Agenda

collage of headshots

As the Tennessee legislative session approaches next week, Arlington Community Schools Board of Education stands at the forefront of advocating for crucial educational priorities that will shape the future of public schools for our students, here locally and statewide. Each year, ACS board members work with Superintendent Jeff Mayo and his Executive Staff to craft a Legislative Agenda that identifies educational initiatives that will impact our students here in Arlington. This strategic agenda serves as a powerful advocacy tool, guiding our efforts to engage with policymakers and legislators, ensuring that the voice of our school district is heard in Nashville. The Legislative Agenda reflects our commitment to advancing policies that not only benefit our students but also contribute to the overall improvement of public education across the state.

ACS Board Members include Chairman Scott Benjamin, Vice Chairman Dr. Dale Viox, Jonathan Dunn (Education Legislative Liasion), Lyle Conley and Kay Williams.

The big picture: The ACS Board of Education has identified five key areas.

  • Among these priorities, the district staunchly opposes publicly funded vouchers, emphasizing the need to redirect taxpayer dollars towards bolstering public schools rather than supporting private institutions.

  • Furthermore, the district challenges the reliability of the A-F school district grading system, advocating for a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to assessing educational quality.

  • In contrast, the district supports full funding for special education preschool programs, aiming to rectify the current gap in funding for mandated programs.

  • Additionally, the district calls for a legislative pathway allowing individuals with industry certifications and substantial work experience to teach Career and Technical Classes, addressing the challenge of finding qualified instructors.

  • Lastly, there have been discussions by state lawmakers about expanding last year's 3rd Grade ELA Retention Law to include mathematics as well. The district opposes legislative retention requirements based solely on mathematics proficiency on standardized tests, arguing for a more comprehensive evaluation of student progress. As our district navigates the legislative landscape, these priorities underscore our commitment to providing quality education for all students.

Further reading: Take a deeper dive into these five key issues by reviewing the full ACS 2024 Legislative Agenda.

Opposes Publicly Funded Vouchers

Tennessee taxpayers have been told that the purpose of vouchers (a.k.a. Education Savings Accounts) is to increase educational opportunities for disadvantaged students.  Statistically, however, the educational opportunities for disadvantaged students attending public k-12 schools are greater than those who attend private institutions through voucher programs.  As a matter of fact, among the highest performing school districts in the State of Tennessee are public K-12 schools.  

According to the United States Census Bureau, for FY 2021, among the 20 states with the lowest per public spending were Texas, Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee, all states that support vouchers. In a September 8, 2023 article in EducationData.Org, it is reported that, “Tennessee K-12 schools rank 45th in spending and 44th in funding."  

ACS maintains that it would be a better use of taxpayer dollars to provide more funding to public schools and move Tennessee into the top 10 states for the highest per pupil spending for public k-12 schools, before money is spent on private institutions.  

Opposes A-F School District Grading

Tennesseans have been told that the purpose of the A-F school district grading is to provide parents with a way to assess the quality of education at each school. For public schools, such information is already available on the Tennessee Report Card. A parent can find any relevant information they need to assess the quality of any public school, by simply entering the name of the school into the Tennessee Report Card website. Using the Tennessee Report Card, parents have the ability to decide for themselves what weight they desire to give to a school with a 20% graduation rate, for example. The A-F grading system proposed is not as a reliable indicator as the Tennessee Report Card, in that it provides a false positive or negative result, based upon the manipulation of the weight given to factors selected and disregards the weight a particular parent wishes to assign to the factors that are most important to that particular parent.

Read more about our stance on the A-F letter grade sham here.

Supports Full Funding For Special Education Preschool Programs

Tennesseans have been told that the TISA funding formula funds school districts using a “student needs based formula." The education of preschool students with special needs between the ages of 3 and 5 in classrooms, which include their typical peers, is required by State and Federal law; however, the education of those students is not funded through the TISA funding formula.  Whereas, the State does have some grants for those mandated special education preschool programs, full state funding for those programs is not being provided.  

ACS supports the inclusion, in the TISA funding formula, of the full cost of operating the special education preschool programs, which includes typical peers.

Supports a Legislative Pathway for Persons with Industry Certifications and at Least 5 Years of Relevant Work Experience to Teach Career and Technical Classes

The General Assembly has mandated public school districts to offer career and technical programs for their students. However, school districts are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to find qualified persons to teach those courses due to the legislative impediment that said classes must be taught by teachers holding a teaching license.  Although the state has made an allowance for persons with industry certifications to teach said courses, there is a requirement that a licensed teacher also be present during the time that the classes are taught by the persons with industry certifications; this is an untenable situation because it requires duplication of costs and efforts for school districts to pay two individuals to “teach” one class.  

Additionally, when the legislation requiring school districts to offer career and technical classes was adopted by the General Assembly, Tennesseans were told that the purpose for such requirements was in order to offer students more opportunities to find meaningful CTE related jobs and to provide Tennessee industries with qualified personnel to perform their CTE related jobs. However, despite those claims, the General Assembly has failed to remove the legislative impediments which prevent Tennessee students from learning from CTE-related industry experts.  

ACS therefore supports a legislative pathway for persons with industry certifications and at least 5 years of relevant work experience to teach Career and Technical Classes, without the need to possess a teaching license or having a licensed teacher in the classroom. 

Opposes Legislative Retention Requirements Based in Full or in Part Upon Mathematics Proficiency on Standardized Tests

In 2021, the General Assembly adopted Public Chapter No. 1, which provided in pertinent part that, “Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, a student in third-grade shall not be promoted to the next grade level unless the student is determined to be proficient in English language arts based on the student’s achieving a performance level rating of “on track” or “mastered” on the ELA portion of the student’s most recent TCAP”.

Interestingly, private schools do not have the same legislative requirement, yet some members of the General Assembly support spending more State funds, in the form of vouchers, to those private schools.

At the time that the aforementioned law was passed and continuing to the present day, ACS has supported allowing school districts the discretion to make retention decisions based on school district data which measures student progress, rather than upon TCAP results.

ACS believes that it is unfair to make retention decisions based upon one test, when experience shows that some students may be proficient and yet be unable to show such proficiency based upon one standardized test.

There have been recent discussions by state lawmakers to expand the 3rd Grade ELA Retention Law to include mathematics as well. For the same reasons previously stated, ACS opposes any legislative requirement that retention be based in full or in part upon mathematics proficiency on standardized tests, such as TCAP.

State Representatives in the Arlington Community Schools District

Rep. Tom Leatherwood - | (615) 741-7084

Senator Brent Taylor - | (615) 741-3036

Senator Paul Rose - | (615) 741-1967