Today’s piece is cross-posted from ExcelinEd’s reform news section.
The Tennessee Legislature passed significant reforms to empower parents and students with special needs and give teachers the freedom to teach during the January – April 2015 session. ExcelinEd commends Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Dolores Gresham, Representative Debra Moody, Senator Mark Norris, Representative Gerald McCormick and the Tennessee General Assembly for their leadership in championing aggressive reforms for the Volunteer State.
EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS
On May 18, Governor Haslam signed into law the Individualized Education Act (SB 27), creating the nation’s fourth Education Savings Account law. Up to 18,000 students with special needs will be eligible to take advantage of this landmark program in its inaugural school year of 2016-2017. Eligible students can use the funds normally allocated to them at their local public school on the schools, courses, programs and services of their choice (i.e., private school, home school, online school, dual enrollment).
TEACHER LIABILITY PROTECTION
On May 20, Governor Haslam signed into law the Educator Protection Act (SB 604), which will provide liability insurance to all public school teachers at no cost to them. Foundation for Excellence in Education CEO Patricia Levesque said, “Liability protection is a benefit that all teachers deserve, especially when it is cost-effective for the state to provide. The Educator Protection Act allows all teachers to solely focus on the task at hand – teaching our children – knowing they are protected from potential lawsuits.”
The Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act (SB 999) passed the Senate on March 30. While the House of Representatives did not pass the legislation this session, it can be carried over and considered in the 2016 session. The legislation would afford low-income students in failing schools the opportunity to attend an accredited, high-quality private school that better serves their individual needs.