MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A group of teachers from Memphis-Shelby County schools are headed to Nashville this week, using their spring break to make their voices heard.
Monday morning, more than 50 teachers with the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association boarded a bus and headed to the state capital.
This year, third graders across Tennessee and their parents brace for change as the state’s new retention law is now in effect.
This law only allows for third-grade students who perform on grade level or higher in the English language to move on to fourth grade.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, only 35% of Tennessee’s third graders are currently reading proficiently.
Rosemary Winters says instead of holding students back, they will ask lawmakers for more programs to increase students’ reading proficiency.
“We really need to look at interventions for our students, after-school tutoring… continue those, as well as summer school programs. summer learning academy and any other interventions that our district and community can play a part of,” Winters said.
They said they also have concerns over Tennessee House Bill 0041 which would permit schools to adopt a policy allowing select employees to carry firearms in the classrooms.
“Having a gun is not going to make it safer for our kids in schools should someone come in. or God forbid that a child picked up a gun because it wasn’t locked securely,” said Sarah Kennedy-Harper, a teacher.
These educators say they don’t mind using their spring break to bring change to the education system here in Tennessee.
“It is my pleasure to go and represent all of our teachers, administrators and staff across the district to try to make it better for us for our students, and for our parents,” Kennedy-Harper said.
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Governor Bill Lee is also proposing the largest salary increase in the state’s history. The Tennessee Teacher Paycheck Protection Act would put in place a minimum salary of $50,000 a year for teachers by 2026.
Winters said this move really could help teachers.
“There is a teacher shortage in the state of Tennessee and there is a teacher shortage in our own Shelby county schools we want to make sure that we get qualified teachers,” Winters said.
The group is traveling to Nashville today and will meet with lawmakers Tuesday morning.
Governor Lee is also proposing changes to enhance school safety across Tennessee, requiring all K-12 public schools keep exterior doors locked.