Members of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee are scheduled to consider a bill this week that would, if enacted into law, expand Educational Savings Accounts, also known as ESAs.
Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) said Monday that at least one school district in Tennessee, in Collierville, moved students to remote learning this month, as Chalkbeat Tennessee reported.
Tennessee law mandates that students take 180 days of in-person learning.
“This bill [SB 1674] expands ESA’s to be offered to any parent whose child goes to a school or attends a school that is within a district and that district chooses not to offer 180 days of in-person learning,” Bell told The Tennessee Star on Monday.
“Our school districts are there to serve and educate our children and if they choose not to offer 180 days in-person learning, which state law requires them to do, then I think it is important that those parents be offered a choice to take money that would go to educate their child within that school district and use it in a school of their choice.”
Recent studies reveal that students do not perform well when they stay home and learn remotely, Bell said. The senator did not cite any of those studies.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published a study last November that said remote learning led to declines in test scores in English and math when compared to the scores of schools that had more in-person learning. Passing rates in math, for instance, declined by 14.2 percentage points on average.
Bell told The Star that teachers unions and members of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents will likely oppose his bill.
“These type bills always have opposition,” Bell said.
“I won’t say it will be easy, but I know at least in the Senate we passed the first ESA bill without too much controversy. I expect us to be able to pass this bill as well.”
The bill, if enacted into law, would not go into effect until the 2022-2023 school year, Bell said.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News. Follow Chris on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, and GETTR. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Mike Bell” by Senator Mike Bell. Background Photo “Remote Learning” by mohamed_hassan.