Thursday, February 28, 2008

Politics Memphis style

(Red Hat) Rob Shearer posts over at the Tennessee ConserVOLiance his take on this whole HB2795 testing for every student dust up. He starts with:

Background: The Memphis delegation has wielded disproportionate influence in the Tennessee Legislature for over a century. This was partly due to demographics (until quite recently, Memphis was the largest city in the state), partly due to party discipline (Memphis is overwhelmingly Democrat and the Democrats control the state legislature), and partly due to the legacy of Boss Crump. Don’t get me started on Boss Crump. But if you’re going to play politics in Tennessee, you’d be well served to do some research on him.
and then answers the question: So why is Representative Hardaway picking a fight with homeschoolers?

Give it a read.

Let's go to the replay

Here's the video of the Special Initiatives sub-committee yesterday. I want to remind folks that as HB2795 stands now it includes ALL non-public students. This is not just a homeschool fight. It's my sincere hope that Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) actually creates a bill that has a clearly defined goal and plan to accomplish that specific goal. While we may not agree it's necessary, at least we'll know what the debate should be about. But if he thinks we're going to work with him in an effort to require non-public students to submit to any kind of state testing, which will drive the scope and sequence of our children's education, it's not going to happen.

Hardaway punts

Yesterday's House Education Committee's Special Initiatives sub-committee was very well attended by parents, children and others interested in stopping HB2795 mandating state tests for all students sponsored by freshman legislator Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis). I'd estimate at least 100 people were crowded into the room with many waiting in the cloakroom and hall. They came, despite the snow, from across the state, literally from Sevierville to Memphis, such was their concern about unnecessary interference in the education of children. People in suits and blue collars some with children in tow. They were determined to make their voices heard. It was very clear from statements made by legislators in the hearing that they had each received thousands and thousands and thousands of calls and emails about the issue--and they didn't want a repeat of that.

Not surprising to those of us familiar with the legislature the Education Committee meeting went very long. Then it was decided that Rep. Tommie Brown's (D-Chattanooga) Higher Ed committee would be slipped in before the Special Initiatives Committee. Despite that the crowd remained fairly quiet and patient until the meeting started and hour after the advertised time.

The bill was introduced and there was a moment or two while we waited for a motion in order to even hear discussion on the bill. Unfortunately, Rep. Tommie Brown (D-Chattanooga) provided it and later when he finally arrived Rep. Joe Towns (D-Memphis) provided the necessary second.

Amazingly, Hardaway spoke at great length about his bill but people were still unclear as to why non-public schoolers were involved. Hardaway seemed to be saying that he was concerned about the unfairness in public school testing and was using this as a tool to highlight that and push improvements. He acknowledged that the State Board of Education was reworking testing and that while Gateway's had been very high stakes they now accounted for only 25% of the graduation requirement. Observers wondered: If this is a public school problem, why are all these non-public schoolers being impacted? Interesting comments considering Hardway's relationship with a Memphis Charter school, Memphis Academy for Health Sciences.

Brown asserted that she was a supporter of homeschooling and the legislature granting us the right to do so. She also stated that she was working toward making the public schools so good that we wouldn't want to homeschool anymore. These comments only pointed out how differently many of us view our 'right to homeschool' and our reasons for doing so. We appreciate the support, but this isn't the way to show it.

Committee Chair Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) was very helpful to attendees making sure they knew how much longer they'd have to wait, assuring them HB2795 would be heard today and allowing several to speak to the committee. But, frankly, since the intent of the legislation was so fuzzy, it was very hard to rebutt. A homeschooling dad who testified came closest to expressing our collective point of view when he essentially said: We're not broke. We don't need fixing.

Rep. Les Winningham (D-Huntsville) was obviously displeased with the way this bill had been handled and confessed he wasn't sure what Hardaway's intent was. Winningham wasn't alone. Winningham, who is not just another committee member but a long time chair of the House Education Committee strongly suggested, several times, that Hardaway put the bill 'off notice' (off the calendar entirely), figure out what he wanted to do, consult with his fellow sub-committee members and homeschoolers and give everyone a week's heads up before putting it on the calendar.

But Towns, who was late to the discussion, spoke up and suggested that Hardaway just roll (postpone) the bill three weeks instead and so he did. In the meantime, after Winningham's comments, it's expected that Hardaway will come back with something much more concrete, that can actually be discussed. 45 minutes of talk, hundreds of man hours, travel time and untold other resources expended for this. It was very frustrating.

The fiscal note for this legislation says HB2795 it will cost $2 million plus to test non-public students next year and some $4 million and up in succeeding years. The assumption is there will be 20,000 non-public students taking these tests. I know no one did much research on that 20K number. As if thousands of outraged parents, frustrated legislators and staff who were unnecessarily inconvenienced, the lack of a clear goal and proof that pulling in non-public schoolers into public school testing was necessary 'for the public good' it'll be tough to sell expending $4 million that could be much better used elsewhere.

Tennessean coverage, such as it is.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The pressure is on

Not surprisingly the volume of calls regarding HB2795 which would require non-public students to submit to public school tests has been huge. THEA's Lana Thornton reported yesterday that more than 1200 calls had been received by the office of Special Initiatives Committee Chair Rep. John Mark Windell (D-Livingston). Not everyone has handled it as well as he or fellow committee member Rep. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett). Lollar's voice mail clearly stated he would vote against. This morning Rep. Tommie Brown's (D-Memphis) phone is still on voice mail and she doesn't want to hear from anyone unless they're from Hamilton County. She suggests you call your own representative.

So unless YOUR representative is on one of these committees that are crafting legislation---Rep. Brown would deny you a voice in the process.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

World's collide

Tomorrow the Legislative Plaza will have two very different views of early childhood education on the hill. Tomorrow is Pre-K Day on the Hill. It's also the day many homeschoolers will be attending a House Education sub-committee to voice their opposition to non-public schoolers being subjected to public-school tests. People who are adamant that what children need is a professional head-start before going to school and families that have proven that a 'professional' education wasn't necessary at all. Ain't America great?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Testing for all: public, private, home schooled

Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) has introduced HB2795 which will require all students whether public, private or home schooled to submit to state testing. The old saying is "He who creates the test creates the curriculum". One of the very reasons parents choose to leave the public schools is the curriculum. I expect he'll be hearing from them until he decides to pull the bill.

District Address
1243 Worthington Street
Memphis, TN 38114
Nashville Address
109 War Memorial Bldg.
Nashville, TN 37243-0192
Phone: (615) 741-5625
Fax: (615) 741-1005
Staff Contact: Tina Hunt
Internet E-Mail Address
Rep. G. A. Hardaway

Rep. Mike Turner (D-Nashville) tried something similar back in 2004 without success. I trust Rep. Hardaway will also realize that this isn't a better path, especially since the State BOE has just recommended dumping Gateway exams altogether and creating more end of course tests. Testing for the professionals is a moving target. Mandating them for all students is a huge infringement on their freedoms. Further, once having passed these tests, I don't see the state offering to provide a diploma for those students in return. This is just a bad idea all around and this bill needs to be pulled before its hearing in the House Education Special Initiatives Committee next Wednesday, February 27, 11:45 a.m., Room 16 of Legislative Plaza.

You can read details for this legislation at

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cleaning up the backlog

I haven't fallen off the planet. I'm busy updating websites, investigating some current legislation and trying to clean up some projects that have been in the IN basket far too long--oh and raising and educating the children, of course. :-)

I'll be back. Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


This is interesting.

The potential ramifications are huge, for a ruling in favor of the couple could affect the millions of Americans who send their children to religious schools of all types. At stake is whether people of all religions can deduct the cost of religious education as a charitable gift, as Scientologists are allowed to do under an officially secret 1993 agreement with the Internal Revenue Service.


''If the I.R.S. does in fact give preferential treatment to members of the Church of Scientology -- allowing them a special right to claim deductions that are contrary to law and disallowed to everybody else -- then the proper course of action is a lawsuit to put a stop to that policy,'' Judge Silverman wrote.
NY Times
Tom Cruise won't be happy about that.

The appellants in the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case, Michael and Marla Sklar, are Orthodox Jews. They took deductions for some of the private religious school tuition they paid for their children, and for after-school classes in Jewish law. Although the IRS eventually disallowed these deductions by the Sklars, starting in 1994, the agency meanwhile reportedly has allowed members of the Church of Scientology, under a 1993 settlement agreement, to take substantial deductions for "religious training and services." ABA Journal
At one point, the IRS lawyer actually warned the court that the tax collector would have difficulty resolving tax disputes if the IRS were forced to disclose its secret agreement with the Scientologists. "Every person who can find out about it from any other religious group is going to come in and want the same thing and that would really tie the IRS's hands," she said. NY Sun

That's exactly correct. Accountability and equity may be inconvenient to the IRS but both are essential to the larger job of meeting the greater needs of the public.

Yes, I know this is San Francisco's 9th Circus, but even a blind squirrel finds an acorn occasionally.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday--Quiet Wednesday

I'll be very glad when this day is matter who wins what. It'll mean the end of constant robo-calls and just now one of the children came in to say a plane trailing a Huckabee sign was over the house. Enough already. In the last three days I've heard from Hillary Clinton twice, Bill Clinton once (I shuddered and considered buying a new phone), Huckabee (twice), Romney, McCain have all been calling. The phone is ringing this very minute--it's some poor schmuck who is tongue tied and doesn't realize what state he's calling into. He just asked me to vote for Hillary in the New Jersey primary!

I've voted and it wasn't for any of them. I voted for Fred Thompson and Republican delegates committed to him. Please, may I have my life back now?

UPDATE: Romney again at 5:22 p.m.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Memphis (F)liar II

AC Kleinheider posts that the misleading photo of Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) published in the Memphis alt-weekly Memphis Flyer didn't originate with the Flyer, something the Flyer failed to mention. So the paper lied to the public about the legitimacy of the photo and apparently stole the 2005 idea. And here's their editor's explanation via MediaVerse:

Perhaps in this case we should have explained that it was photo-shopped. Apparently it wasn’t obvious enough for some readers.

Bianca Phillips wrote the straight news item, which appeared in the paper this week without the photo in question. The photo was just a way to have fun with the story online. Bianca had nothing to do with it.

That's the wasn't obvious and they should have made it so. Dare I say that the readership of the Flyer would be inclined to assume the worst about Campfield? All the more reason to keep the 'straight news item' and the 'fun' photo away from one another. It was a straight news item (though obviously slanted). Why would you want to have 'fun' with such a serious story?

As of this notation at the original story that the photo was altered. No apology to Rep. Campfield there either.

Maybe the Memphis Flyer should take a lesson from the Nashville Scene (also an alt-weekly) who had fun with a picture of Pedro Garcia last March to go along with a much more serious piece regarding his tenure (adult site). However their cover art of a smiling Garcia vandalized by black marker was obvious to all as altered. Maybe you didn't think it was funny but you didn't confuse the lengthy, legitimate story starting on page 23 about his tenure with the 'having fun with it' artwork. The altered photo didn't appear next to the online article at all. In fact I couldn't find a copy of the 'fun' cover art at the Scene's site and had to tell people to pick up the hard copy if they wanted to see it. Thankfully I saved my copy.

And thanks to AC's linking I learn there actually is a Memphis Liar web site watching the publication and pointing out the errors. Glad I don't have that job.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Construction for Bredesen, but not children

Apparently Gov. Phil Bredesen can find $12 million to fund his party bunker from a very tight state budget but the hundreds of millions of excess lottery dollars just sitting around collecting interest cannot be touched to build classrooms for public school students despite the FACT that the TN Constitution allows this use of those funds.

Bill Hobbs has details and quotes from the Tennessee Journal (subscription needed).

Instead of coming up with another proposal to use some of the lottery surplus to fund school construction, Bredesen appears to be leaning toward a last-minute proposal from House Democrats to divert the money instead to a loan fund for projects that improve the energy efficiency of public school buildings, the TJ reports.
That makes no sense. You want maximum energy efficiency? Replace portables with brick and mortar. And loans? Not grants? Why do we have to further encumber our school districts by requiring them to go into debt for improvements when the cash is available?

Hobbs points out:
Nine school systems have more than 10 percent of their classes in portables.
Last year the best Bredesen could do was to create the Lottery Bank of Tennessee:
Gov. Bredesen has already suggested in his State of the State address that lottery funds be used for loans to local school districts.
So, high on the Governor's list of construction projects is a party facility for himself, the legislators, lobbyists and other unnamed swells. Low on his construction priority is classrooms for children. Oh, he'd loan the school systems the money but an outright grant to the systems to do what is best for the children? No.

Why is this party facility necessary? Why do the swells get more than comfortable accommodations and our school children don't even get safe and secure ones?

Memphis (F)liar

This isn't about Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) , it's not about any legislation he has, is or will offer. This is about the lack of professionalism in reporting. The January 31 edition of the alt-weekly Memphis Flyer has what seems like a serious article about legislation introduced (it's obvious where they stand on the issue, btw). However, instead of providing a stock photo of the sponsoring legislator they altered a photo from a completely different situation to ridicule the him and make their editorial point.

Here's the original photo where Rep. Campfield was expressing his opinion regarding Gov. Phil Bredesen and on the right is the altered and editorializing version published by the Memphis Flyer. They changed the wording on Campfield's sign and removed Campfield's left index finger which was pointing to the governor.

And professional journalists complain about the lack of professionalism in the blogging community. Please. An apology and retraction is in order to be sure.

UPDATE: Read what Rep. Campfield has to say on the subject.

Hat Tip: Terry Frank

Friday, February 01, 2008

MNPS needs a CEO

As I consider the Metro Nashville Public Schools' need for a new Superintendent I'm of the mind it may be time to abandon the usual superintendent model and look for someone who is more 'business CEO' to run this enormous system. A huge portion of the system isn't really 'education' related at all. It is services related though--transportation, food service, nursing, facilities maintenance, customer and public relations, purchasing, security, and human resources to name a few.

If we can find a MNPS CEO that can run the non-educational but essential day to day stuff AND has the ability to work well with those that know the education delivery portion of the system we'll be on our way to creating a better system. I don't think it's necessary for an educator to be in charge of the whole system though.

The upside to a CEO is that the efficient running of the non-educational portions of the system should free up valuable resources that can be made available to the educators. Money is going to be tight. Taxpayers are of the mind that there is a lot of waste and they're not inclined to hand over anymore until they're convinced money is being spent wisely. We're going to need someone that can 'turn a penny twice' and clearly show the taxpaying public they've done so before they're ever going to agree to a property tax increase.

We also need someone able and willing to keep the educators accountable for job performance--because job performance, educating these children, is THE focus of the system. It's why we pay our taxes. It's why we vote in school board members. We want children well educated for the benefit of our community. Failing to ensure that they're educated doesn't just impact their life, but their families, their neighbors and our community as a whole.

Having an educator in charge of the system hasn't served these children well. Let's try something different.