Tennessee Department of Education Awarded $830 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) awarded Tennessee $830 million in funds to reopen and secure schools. The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) earned these funds based on their American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Plan (ESSER). All states may submit an ARP ESSER plan. So far, ED reports that 40 states have submitted one.

According to the ED press release, this latest funding brings Tennessee’s total ARP funds to nearly $2.5 billion.

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Tennessee Education Commissioner $8 Million Contract with Company Where Husband Works Has CEO That Supports Critical Race Theory, ‘Anti-Racist’ Teaching

DAN WEISBERG

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn awarded an $8.06 million contract to a company whose CEO supports Critical Race Theory and anti-racism in classrooms. As The Tennessee Star reported previously, Schwinn’s husband works at The New Teacher Project (TNTP) as well.

TNTP CEO Dan Weisberg has posted frequently about his support for critical race theory and anti-racist teaching. Weisberg tweeted articles showing his support for the two ideologies five times in the last month, as of this publication.

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Another No-Bid Contract Under Tennessee’s Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn

Tennessee’s Education Commissioner, Penny Schwinn, wants to award another no-bid contract – this time, $7.5 million in federal funds over 3 years for a variety of services from NCS Pearson. These services would entail a K-3 Early Grade Universal Screening and Monitoring System (EGUSMS), which would include universal screening for literacy and math, dyslexia screening, mental health screening, progress monitoring, and data organization. Pearson’s EGUSMS would also provide the online reporting tools, training resources, and technical support for educators implementing the EGUSMS tools. If all options to renew are exercised for a 5-year term, then the cost would total $12.5 million.

Schwinn justified the decision to make NCS Pearson the sole source by claiming that none of the other vendors met the state’s minimum requirements. Schwinn added that the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) hadn’t put forth a complete request for proposal (RFP) out due to the short notice and prompt need for schools to obtain these services.

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Moms for Liberty Williamson County Lays Bare Evidence of Critical Race Theory, Suicide Ideation, Violence, and More in Curriculum Across 33 Counties

  FRANKLIN, Tennessee – After around 1200 hours of investigation, a parent-led deep dive team uncovered how a widely-used English curriculum in Tennessee pushes narratives on history and introduces K-5 students to a range of concepts such as Critical Race Theory, suicide ideation, gender fluidity, alcoholism, promiscuity, torture, cannibalism, and more.…

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Tennessee Education Commissioner to Publish Guidance on Critical Race Theory Ban Compliance by August 1

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn promised to publish educator guidance on the state’s critical race theory ban by August 1. The ban was first proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly by State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge). The law itself doesn’t mention critical race theory by name, but it does address the theory’s tenets and practices at length.

Schwinn revealed the plan to issue guidance in an exclusive interview with Chalkbeat on Wednesday. The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) guidance will also address the question of how the commissioner would uphold the ban, including a complaint evaluation process and financial penalty system. Ragan’s amendment noted that the commissioner would determine how much state funding to withhold for violations.

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Tennessee Investing $4.2 Billion in K-12 Public Schools Using Federal Funds

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) announced that it will invest an additional $4.2 billion for K-12 schools. The federal funds will be allocated to Tennessee schools over the next 4 years, according to the TDOE press release. The funding is a combination of different types of federal emergency relief funding.

TDOE clarified that the funding will be allotted to specific programs and initiatives. $120.7 million will go toward the Tennessee Literacy Success Act and Reading 360, $170.5 million for the Tennessee Learning Loss and Student Acceleration Act, $35 million for the 2022-23 math textbook adoption process, $32 million for online resources, $32.6 million for Innovating High Schools and Advanced Courses, $17.8 million for mental health supports, $56.5 million for K-12 open-source readiness coursework and statewide professional development, and $21 million to support the educator pipeline.

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Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn Gave $8 Million Contract to Company That Employs Her Husband

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s husband works for the company that benefited from an $8.06 million reading initiative contract.

Apparently, Commissioner Schwinn keeps it all in the family. As The Tennessee Star reported last fall, sources claimed that Schwinn imported former colleagues from Texas when she assumed her role within TDOE. They also claimed that they were subjected to hiring freezes and pressure to slash budgets, though Schwinn had no problem with maintaining the six-figure salaries for her imports.

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Tennessee Legislature Entertaining Expansion of Black History and Culture Education for Fifth and Eighth Grades

Legislators are looking to standardize Black history curriculum in grades 5 and 8, and have the state provide additional resources by 2025. The bill in question specified that fifth and eighth-grade students would learn about Black heritage, culture, experience, and the “ultimate destiny of all social, ethnic, gender and national groups and individuals, and that such are represented as interdependent, interactive, and complementary.” It also specified that the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) would provide internet resources and materials for K-12 instruction in the subject.

State Senator Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) first introduced the bill, followed with a companion bill filed by State Representative Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga). Senate committees recommended the bill for passage with amendments. Although senators applauded the basis for the idea, they expressed concern over the fiscal impact of the bill. They also questioned the reality of schools’ ability to craft a new curriculum of that magnitude by this fall, as the bill required originally.

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Tennessee Department of Education Faced Lawsuit over Textbook Bias Allegedly Perpetrated by Commissioner Penny Schwinn

A lawsuit alleged that Commissioner Penny Schwinn favored certain textbook vendors without merit at the expense of more qualified vendors. Textbook and educational materials publishing company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) filed the suit against the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) in November of 2019. Consequently, HMH noted that the sale of all other grade levels of reading materials offered by HMH were jeopardized, since they are designed to be implemented together from K-12 curriculum.

The Tennessee State Board of Education acted on the recommendation of an advisory panel appointed by the Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission to not adopt HMH’s third grade reading material. HMH claimed that the advisory panel’s process was disrupted after Schwinn appointed Dr. Lisa Coons as TDOE Assistant Commissioner for Standards and Materials. Thereafter, HMH claimed that the panel re-reviewed and failed HMH’s material, while TDOE adopted programs offered by competitors that also received failing grades.

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Tennessee Projects 65 Percent Learning Loss in Math, 50 Percent Loss in Third Grade Reading After COVID-19 Closures

Reading proficiency among Tennessee third-graders is projected to drop by 50%, and math proficiency is projected to drop by 65% because of COVID-19-related school closures, according to preliminary projections released by the Department of Education.

Gov. Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn announced the projected learning loss during a news conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

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Documents Show Tennessee Department of Education Misrepresented Intended Scope of Child Well-Being Checks

While the Tennessee Department of Education has said temporarily withdrawn guidance on child well-being checks was not intended to apply to every child, internal documents and emails sent in development of the guidance show officials have misrepresented the intended scope of the initiative in response to public outrage.

A guidance toolkit outlining statewide Child Wellbeing Checks was developed by the COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force and released Aug. 11. Within three days, the department had withdrawn the program after uproar over perceived big-brother style government overreach.

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Child Well-Being Check Initiative Withdrawn After Uproar in Tennessee

 The Tennessee Department of Education has withdrawn a $1 million initiative to conduct well-being checks for all children in Tennessee from birth to age 18 after the program sparked uproar this week, with critics calling it a big-brother government overreach.

Gov. Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn released the Child Wellbeing Check Toolkit during a news conference Tuesday. As originally published, the initiative recommended well-being checks for all children in the state to verify well-being as school closures have left gaps for nutrition, health, and abuse reporting services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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