Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee budgets $144 million for statewide school vouchers – By Marta W. Aldrich, Chalkbeat

Gov. Bill Lee renewed his call for private school vouchers for any student across Tennessee on Monday, and he also set aside $144 million in his proposed state budget to pay for the new program for up to 20,000 students in its first year.

For traditional public schools, the Republican governor asked the legislature to raise the annual base pay for teachers from $42,000 to $44,500, in keeping with his pledge last year to get the profession’s minimum salary to $50,000 by the 2027-28 school year. (Raising the base pay has a domino effect and increases the pay of more experienced teachers, too.)

Lee also wants to invest $200 million to grow state parks and natural areas while simultaneously cutting corporate taxes amid a downturn in state revenues. But he maintained that Tennessee has “a very strong economy” to pay for all the changes.

The governor outlined his list of wants Monday evening during his 2024 address before the General Assembly, which will take up Lee’s voucher proposal and the budget in the months ahead.


Governor Bill Lee

Indiana legislation could hold back thousands of third graders who can’t read – By Isabella Volmert, AP News

Indiana lawmakers have avowed to reverse the state’s long declining literacy rates with legislation targeting early elementary school years. Almost halfway through the legislative session, state Senators advanced a sweeping bill Thursday that could hold back thousands of third graders who do not pass the state’s reading exam.

Republicans have balked at those who have labeled the measure a “retention bill,” saying students need the intervention now.

“Retention is the absolute last resort if we’ve exhausted all other methods to help struggling readers,” the bill’s author, state Sen. Linda Rogers, told lawmakers.

The bill, which has the support of Gov. Eric Holcomb, Republicans who control the House chamber and the Indiana Department of Education, now advances to the House.


Child care providers say they’re equipped to help teach 4-year-old kindergarten – By Erik Gunn, Wisconsin Examiner

Legislation that would require school districts with 4-year-old kindergarten to collaborate with community child care providers got a mixed response at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

Child care providers testified in favor of the proposal, AB-1035 / SB-973. It’s the only one of 10 child care bills Republicans have offered this session that has won broad support from people who work in the child care field.

Witnesses from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) — the state agency that oversees licensed child care providers in Wisconsin — spoke favorably about the proposal’s objective while raising questions about some of its details. DCF’s testimony was for information, not an endorsement or in opposition, said Deputy Secretary Jeff Pertl.

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which on its website promotes including child care providers in 4K programs, testified against the legislation. Tom McCarthy, DPI’s deputy state superintendent, said that “from a value perspective DPI does not oppose using the community approach to grow [child care] opportunities across the state,” but that the bill presented problems as written.


Cecil County Board of Education talks proposed budget amid $20 million revenue shortfall – By Cristina Mendez, WJZ News

The Cecil County Board of Education was presented with new budget recommendations by the superintendent's office that could avoid major slashes to services and staffing positions if the local government makes up the $20 million revenue shortfall and then some.

"What we showed tonight was bringing back those services and staff positions so that we can stay whole and operate at the current level where we are right now," Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Lawson said. "The direction I was also given by the board was to add teaching positions and paraprofessional positions we felt were necessary."

On January 24, the board was shown an initial budget presentation that would have significant impacts to staffing, including more than 150 positions being eliminated.

Major programs could also be reduced or eliminated, including countywide chorus, band and strings, junior varsity and middle school athletics, plus gifted programs.

The shortfall in revenue is being attributed to two COVID-19 relief-related grants ending, Blueprint for Maryland's Future legislation requirements and three years of the local government funding the district at the minimum state law requirement known as Maintenance of Effort, according to the office of the superintendent.