NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The Tennessee Senate passed a bill on Monday that specifies that local boards of education and governing bodies of public charter schools have the sole authority to open or close schools during a public health emergency.
The passage of SB 103 would allow the governor in Tennessee the authority to issue an Executive Order requiring all schools to offer in-person learning.
State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and state Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, were the primary sponsors of the legislation.
“This is a victory for students and parents as every Tennessee family deserves the choice of in-person learning,” Kelsey said in a statement on Monday. “Allowing students to return to the classroom is long overdue as we have many students, especially low-income students, who are struggling this year and falling behind their peers. No one is saying that the governor should force students back into an atmosphere which they feel is unsafe. For those parents who want their children back into school, let’s follow the science, and the science says it’s safe.”
The legislation states that local boards of education may consult with the state and local health departments when determining whether to open or close.
However, the school boards will have "more independence regarding whether their schools should be open or closed to in-person learning during a public emergency, unless the governor has issued a statewide order."
“Mandated directives should only come from elected leaders who are accountable to the people they serve,” said Kelsey. “I am very pleased that the Senate has approved this legislation and look forward to seeing it passed by House and enacted into law.”
The bill now moves on to the House for consideration.