Tennessee Senate Education Committee Recommends Passage of Legislation Enabling Governor to Override School Closures


If local officials decide on emergency school closures in the future, Tennessee’s governor may have the power to override them. This, according to a bill recommended for passage by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. Its companion bill in the House was passed on first consideration on Monday, gaining a little progress since its filing last month.

The bill would also grant all local education authorities (LEAs) with the sole power to open or close schools during an emergency as defined by the Tennessee Code. However, if the governor, local health board, or public health official were to issue orders to the contrary, then the LEA’s decision would be nullified. The bill also noted that the governor’s authority would supersede the authority of local health boards and public health officials.

State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) first introduced the bill, followed by State Representative Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville). In previous reporting by The Tennessee Star, Kelsey made it clear that local boards of education should be the ultimate decision makers on how to operate their schools.

The last LEA in the state to offer any variant of in-person learning was Shelby County Schools (SCS). Kelsey claimed that the district pushed back its reopening date, originally planned for February 8, “purely out of spite [and] political [motivations].”

“Students need to be back in the classroom, and parents need to be able to make the best choice for their children,” stated Kelsey. “With this legislation, I offer protection for municipal school districts who have been unable to execute safe reopening plans based on scientific guidelines due to pressure from unelected local health boards.”

After Kelsey’s bill progressed through the Senate, SCS suddenly announced a reopening plan on Friday. SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray had announced as recently as February 4 that the district had no set plans for reopening.

Then on Friday, Ray requested that all school staff return to in-person teaching on February 22.

Ray alluded that the increased vaccine availability served as the “greatest signal of hope.” Ray’s remarks followed President Joe Biden’s announcement on Thursday that enough vaccines to administer to all Americans would be available shortly.

Kelsey’s spokespersons were unable to obtain a comment from the senator by press time.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].






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4 Thoughts to “Tennessee Senate Education Committee Recommends Passage of Legislation Enabling Governor to Override School Closures”

  1. 83ragtop50

    I would much prefer that authority to begiven to the legislature through a mechanism for convening a committee of legislators. Giving a governor like Mr. Lee more power is a step in the wrong direction.

  2. Scott Geoffries

    Just get rid of the teacher’s unions. Problem solved.

  3. CMinTN

    Where’s my property tax rebate? No open, no money. These union teachers can br fired, just like Reagan did with the air traffic controllers in the ’80’s. Hire non union teachers and end this shutdown now.

    1. Horatio Bunce

      Much more logical solution. Closed schools aren’t educating. They don’t need nor deserve any tax money.

      Forked tongue Kelsey is not to be trusted. Says LEA should have control, introduces bill to give one king control. Like there will never be a (nother) democrat governor.