NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — On Wednesday, Gov. Bill Lee claimed a small victory for Tennessee students. He says summer schools worked hard to battle learning loss.
Still, the pandemic had a major impact on students. Many of whom missed months of schooling or struggled virtually.
Over two days, a joint education committee will look at issues in the Tennessee education system.
Wednesday, the issues were truancy and chronic absenteeism. Both are long-term problems facing the state that were also made worse by the pandemic.
But, the state reported positive movement in both English and math. Elementary and middle schools students saw an increase, which Lee says is due to the state's summer school program.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn touted the victory for the state at the committee but said it was just the start.
"It's the first step in a series of important steps," said Schwinn. "So, we have summer programming over the next few summers. And then we have our Tennessee all-core tutoring and we'll have a number of students in that. And then, on top of that, we have a number of resources during the school year."
As the state hears from different departments, some lawmakers believe the state isn't focusing on the right issues.
Nashville Rep. John Ray Clemmons said he thinks the state should focus on protecting kids, especially when classrooms and schools have had to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
He said safety precautions should be the issue here.
"Truancy is an important issue facing school systems for as long as public schools has existed," said Clemmons. "It's an important issue that requires discussion. Is this the best time to discuss that when we have all of these other issues facing us?"
Schwinn said the state's role isn't to tell districts what to do.
"We will continue to put out guidance and supports and local resources for districts, but those decisions statutorial and legally rest at the local level."