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Tennessee Receives Emergency Funding for Education 

In December 2020 the US Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Emergency School Relief Fund II (ESSER II), to offer support to school systems across the country as they deal with the ongoing pandemic. Tennessee received over $1.1 billion for education, with $990 million of these funds going directly to the state’s 147 school districts. This amount is roughly four times greater than the funds from the first ESSER grant passed earlier in 2020.

School Superintendents from across the state were notified of the funds last week, and deliberations on how best to use the funds are now underway in each school system. According to the TDOE, these are one-time funds intended to be used to supplement the activities of the school system, and are not for existing recurring expenditures. 

What you need to know: The ESSER II funds can be used to support arts education programs. While you cannot use these funds to replace lost fundraising revenue or to supplant recurring expenditures, you should meet with your school system leadership to discuss ways some of these funds could be used for arts education. According to Todd Shipley, TDOE Director of Arts Education, there are two education priorities identified by Governor Lee that you might be able to align with the needs of your program:
     - addressing learning loss during the pandemic
     - school facility repairs and improvements

The Bottom Line:  All Tennessee arts programs have suffered during the past several months, and these funds will not solve all of the issues you are facing. However, this money could be used to support your program and your students moving forward.

Now is the time to meet with your local advocates and supporters, and with your school system leadership. There is no guarantee that you will receive what you request, but that should not deter you from seeking what your students need.

Useful Links (Provided by TDOE):


Allocations of ESSER II Funds by District:

Tennessee General Assembly
Special Session on Education

Next week the Tennessee General Assembly will convene a special session to focus on education issues currently facing our state. The Governor and the TDOE have prioritized five key issues:
   1) Learning loss during the pandemic
   2) Funding for school districts
   3) Teacher and student accountability
   4) Literacy
   5) Teacher pay

In addition, the TDOE is planning to implement a new literacy program, Reading 360. This program will use federal relief funding to support a phonics-based approach to literacy to help students read on grade level by grade three.

Watch for ArtsEd Tennessee’s Legislative Update emails, which will keep you informed on all education-related issues throughout the 2021 Legislative Session.

Share this email: If you know a colleague, advocate or supporter who is interested in staying informed on the issues facing Tennessee's arts educators, please forward this email to them, and ask them to sign up for our newsletter.



Prepared by

Stephen Coleman

Director, ArtsEd Tennessee

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