"Not worth the paper they're written on."
That's how Tn DOE Executive Director of Field Services Cindy Benefield is being quoted as having described the diplomas received by tens of thousands of students across the state. These students have received their diplomas from Category IV schools as defined by the State Board of Education. Of course, their onerous rules for us won't apply to their teachers who don't currently have baccalaureate degrees. It doesn't take into account student ACT/SAT scores and doesn't take into account the tens of thousands of homeschoolers who have successfully matriculated on to colleges and trade schools since the CRS law was written. Common sense and tack records aren't being considered here. Shouldn't those schools be the best judges of the value of the student's diploma? No, this is a heavy handed and protectionist power play by educrats and their political appointees.
Benefield's loose words have resulted in a policeman who graduated 7 years ago, received a 4.0 during his training and had been on the job for months being removed from the field and his arrests being fresh fodder for criminal attorneys. Also a grandmother's day care operation was threatened when the state determined that her employee had one of these 'worthless' diplomas and grandma is now forced to fire her granddaughter in order to keep her license.
It's being reported that ITT Technical school has been denying registration based on this woman's words.
Rep. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) presented to the House Higher Education Committee last week an amendment that would require the state and its agencies to recognize these diplomas issued by church-related schools sanctioned by TCA 49-50-801.
SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, title 49, chapter 1, Part 1, is amended by adding a new section thereto, as follows:
That committee approved it for passage and sent it on the the full House Education Committee with the understanding that the DOE and Rep. Bell would try and come to some agreement.
Section 49-1-1___. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a student who has a diploma recognized under §49-50-801 or §49-6-3030 shall be considered by all departments, agencies or entities of state government as possessing a valid high school diploma. this section shall not apply to state lottery proceeds as provided in title 49, chapter 4, part 9.
Frustratingly, the DOE provided an amendment that would pretty much negate TCA49-50-801 and require 9-12 graders to be taught by those with a baccalaureate degree.
SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, chapter 1, Part 1, is amended by adding a new section thereto, as follows:
Section 49-1-1-1____. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a student who has a diploma awarded by § 49-50-801 or §49-6-3050 shall be considered by all departments, agencies or entities of state government as possessing a valid high school diploma as long as all entities issuing diplomas pursuant to the above statutes require and document that all teachers conducting classes in kindergarten through grade either (K-8) hold a valid high school diploma or GED and all teachers conducting classes in grades nine through twelve (9-12) hold at least a baccalaureate degree awarded by a college or university accredited by an accrediting agency or association recognized by the state board of education. This section shall not apply to state lottery proceeds as provided title 49, chapter 4, part 9.
SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 50, Part 801, is amended by deleting subsection (b) in its entirety and substituting instead the following:
(b) with the exception of requiring all teachers conducting classes in kindergarten through grade either (K-8) to hold a high school diploma or GED and all teachers conducting classes in grades nine through twelve (9-12) to hold at least a baccalaureate degree awarded by a college or university accredited by an accrediting agency or association recognized by the state board of education, the state board of education and local boards of education are prohibited from regulating the selection of faculty or textbooks or the establishment of a curriculum in church-related schools.
One of the primary reasons that code was created was to enable parents without a BA/BS to school their children at home. The DOE sees this as a chance to take back land they couldn't hold on to back in the '80's.
The Tennessee House Education Committee room will again be filled with homeschoolers today. They'll be clogging the phone lines again. They'll be maxing out the state's video streaming of this hearing. They're tired of this year of assault and they will be remembering this election season who was for freedom in education and parental rights.
You can find more details on all this, to include video of the House Ed hearing, legislative contact information, etc. at http://tnhomeed.com/HB1652-SB1827.htm. During those hearings Rep. Tommie Brown (D-Memphis) had the best question. Since these diplomas have been fine for years and years "what has changed?" It's a great question.
Update: The bill passed with the amendment homeschoolers were hoping for.
Read Red Hat Rob's blog for a great overview. The Memphis/Winningham contingent ate up an entire hour trying to block it. But our friends stood firm. We're tremendously appreciative. It's on to the full House and then the Senate.