By TEA Executive Director Terrance Gibson | Excitement, eagerness, anticipation and joy are all typical feelings that educators across the country experience annually as summer winds down and we usher in a new school year.
Educators meet the start of each school year with a renewed sense of commitment to our students, the communities we serve and our profession.
The excitement of pulling classroom materials together or organizing workspaces is coupled with our eagerness to see how former students have grown, welcoming new ones and our enthusiasm to try new strategies and pedagogical approaches.
Unfortunately, we are once again facing a start to a new school year that will be anything but typical.
Regardless of the world’s irregularities or the inconsistencies in educational environments, educators will press on as the school year kicks off.
As students return, educators have stressed the need for focus on the whole child. This must be done with care, attention, resilience and hard work as we serve the students who have endured so much over the past year. We must engage policymakers and hold all stakeholders accountable as we create supports to address trauma and the inconsistent learning environments students experienced last school year.
As we start school, districts across our state will be completing plans to use billions of federal dollars to help public schools recover from the impacts of the pandemic. Under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) this looks to be the most federal money poured into public education since Race to the Top. ARP provides more than $170.3 billion for K-12 schools, higher education and related programs under the U.S. Department of Education, including $122.8 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund (ESSER).
Tennessee will receive an estimated $2.5 billion in ESSER funds and an estimated $700 million in higher education emergency relief funds. TEA and all local affiliates must continue to work to leverage this opportunity for schools and members. Read more on pages 1 and 8 of this publication about the resources TEA staff have provided to assist local affiliates as they engage with their district administrators who must submit LEA plans to TDOE by August 27. LEAs have a great opportunity to use these unprecedented funds to add supports to address student trauma, the digital divide, poverty relief and notable resource gaps experienced by our communities.
Educators will also find important policy and legislative changes TEA won for our members this past spring and summer. The state salary wins, teacher evaluation relief, and new licensure flexibilities are just a few of the reasons why potential members are attracted to our TEA and must be asked to join.
Though we don’t pick our students, being educators is the calling we chose to make a difference. No matter who shows up at the start of school, TEA members are committed to giving them the best of us.
We must continue to promote the association mission, advocate for our students, and lead in our professional practice.