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Tennessee lawmakers to focus on education funding, redistricting in legislative session

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 4:57 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:57 AM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - This year’s Tennessee legislative session is set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 11. There are several issues lawmakers plan to address this year. One of the big topics is education.

Tennessee lawmakers have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to addressing education. A major focus during this year’s legislative session will likely be about funding public schools.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Education Secretary Penny Schwinn have previously announced a desire to change the current funding formula for public schools which is called the Basic Education Program, or BEP. It has been in effect for the last 30 years.

Schwinn announced a draft proposal for a new plan would be unveiled this week.

Also a potential issue on the table this year: a proposal limiting what supplemental materials teachers can use to teach.

The proposal would follow a new state law that was passed last year that limited what teachers could say about racism, white privilege and unconscious bias.

Other proposals that could emerge during this session include changes to testing schedules and teacher evaluations.

Besides education, redistricting will also be a point of focus during this year’s legislative session.

State lawmakers are responsible for redrawing the boundaries. It’s something they do once every decade.

The census has a big impact on a district’s size because the legislative and congressional boundaries are based on the new population figures from the census.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Shelby county added just 2,100 people from 2010 to 2020. Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson says that slow rate of growth comes at a cost.

”Shelby County is going to lose one of its seats in the state House of Representatives because our population has not grown as fast as the rest of the state,” said Nelson.

This means instead of 14 state House seats, Shelby County will have 13 under a plan being pushed through the general assembly.

State Representatives London Lamar and Torrey Harris, both Democrats, will have to either face each other in an election or one will have to step aside.

Monday, Tennessee Democrats updated their plan for redistricting.

It reduces the number of split counties to eight, makes district populations more equal and creates a district in Middle Tennessee for voters who belong to a minority group. Republicans are expected to release their congressional redistricting plan later this week.

A redistricting committee meeting is set for this Wednesday. We’ll continue following this story as it develops.

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