As Lawmakers Mull Major School Policy Changes, Tennessee Education Commissioner Schwinn Keeps a Busy Travel Schedule

While Tennessee state lawmakers debate third-grade reading retention policies, and local school superintendents implement Tennessee’s new school funding formula, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education continues to travel the country promoting Tennessee’s education initiatives.

Last quarter’s travel expenses filed with the state, reveal trips to Austin, Arlington, Boston, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C. In February she was in D.C. to help the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) launch the Alliance for Learning Innovation (ALI), a bipartisan initiative co-led with Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC, to increase education research and development investments across the federal government.

Commissioner Schwinn traveled to Austin, Texas on Monday for the annual SXSW EDU Conference. There, she appeared as part of a panel moderated by Eva-Marie Ayala from the Dallas Morning News, discussing school funding influences, not just for learning and achievement, but also for educational attainment, earnings, crime, and poverty. Per SXSW organizers, “It’s a question of particular importance as schools tap federal relief funds to help children recover from the pandemic.”

Former Tennessean reporter Megan Mangrum reports via Twitter, that in response to an audience member’s question of panelists on whether states actually fully fund their school funding formulas, Schwinn noted that it is written into Tennessee’s law but concedes that the previous formula was “woefully underfunded.” Tennessee’s two largest school districts are joined in an ongoing lawsuit against the state over public school funding. That lawsuit has been paused while litigants determine how the legislation will affect funding across the state. Metro Nashville is currently undecided on whether to press forward with its lawsuit against the state.

Schwinn traveled mid-week to D.C. for the annual meeting of Chiefs for Change, an education non-profit founded by former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. Schwinn, along with former state Superintendents Kevin Huffman and Candice McQueen, are members of the organization. Earlier this year, Tennessee Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Eve Carney and Hamilton County Deputy Superintendent Sonia Stewart, joined the organization as Future Chiefs of Change.

As part of the annual meeting, Schwinn participated on a panel on Thursday, along with three other women, in honor of International Woman’s Day, to explain how they are working to accelerate learning, support student wellbeing, and lead systems that set all students up to succeed. The chiefs on the panel were asked to share a piece of advice for those in the Future Chiefs program. Commissioner Schwinn offered that education leaders must take ownership over outcomes and results for every child, “Keep the urgency, the pace, the push every single day.”

Commissioner Schwinn returned to Tennessee on Friday. Upon her return, she visited Memphis’s T-STEM Academy East High School to see their Aviation, Coding, Mechanics, and Broadcasting programs.

April finds Commissioner Schwinn in San Diego for the ASU+GSV Summit. She will join fellow panelists Nick Gaehid from Voyager Sopris Learning, Rosamund Else Mitchell from Scholastic, and T. Nakia Towns from Gwinnett Public Schools in discussing, “How to Solve the Nations’ reading Emergency“. The session will focus on exploring tactical solutions–spanning curriculum to technology to accountability–that can bring about the real change young readers need.

Travel records for state officials are due next month for the first quarter of 2023.

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TC Weber is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He also writes the blog Dad Gone Wild. Follow TC on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected] He’s the proud parent of two public school children and the spouse of a public school teacher.
Photos by Penny Schwinn.


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2 Thoughts to “As Lawmakers Mull Major School Policy Changes, Tennessee Education Commissioner Schwinn Keeps a Busy Travel Schedule”

  1. nicky wicks

    does she ever do her job?

    i guess maybe it is better if she doesnt.

    she needs to go.

  2. Joe Blow

    It might be a blessing that Schwinn does not spend much time working for Tennessee. Her agenda and decisions make me want to puke. This is all because Lee had to pick a proven liberal Berkley grad to head up Tennessee’s education department. She shares no values with the primarily conservative parents and grandparents. She should not have been hired but she surely should be fired ASAP.