Thursday, June 18, 2009

Charter Bill PASSES!

The Democrats stepped slightly aside from the school house door after a $100 million dollar arm twisting by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and allowed the charter bill to pass. Final vote 79 yes, 15 no.

I'll have to wait for in House viewers to explain what all the commotion was in the room but it was clear from Rep. Mike Turner (D-Nashville) strong words that there was some definite restlessness in the room. Democrat Caucus Chair Turner said fairly early in the discussion "We've come a long way on this bill...I can't believe we've come this far and going to screw it up. Let's vote this bill out." Several speakers asked for order in the room and called for the House to 'come under the rule'.

Rep. Tommie Brown (D-Chattanooga) had some stern words for the room after the vote asserting that the Democrat declaration of a unit vote (everyone votes against the charter bill) was at the request of one male Democrat who 'needed cover' for the vote. She didn't name him. No one wanted that, she said, and it gave the Democrats in Tennessee a black eye the entire nation was commenting on.

Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) felt the need to defend teachers and express her feelings about what she considered "bashing" of public schools. She threw out the ineffective and oft repeated argument that charters "cherry pick" their students. No one pointed out to her that they recruit from failing schools and students and that the MNPS system has done such a poor job in the past of notifying parents of the education option that door-to-door notification was almost essential. It's not like charters are only accepting rich white kids with high IQ's. She also asserted that the TEA (Tennessee Education Association) worked with the bill crafters to ensure that something worse didn't come about. She predicted that charters wouldn't be for students and time would show that they turned out to be something else.

In the middle of all this an unexpected 6th amendment was offered by Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) and then withdrawn. It would have allowed any student into a charter school if after the failing school students, failing students, and at-risk students had turned the slots down.

Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) commented, rather passionately, that this bill had made folks take a long look at the the public education system. He said we needed to rediscover that competitive spirit and creativity that allowed us to go to the moon using a slide rule, pencil and paper and computers with less power than his cell phone.

Rep. Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis took time to dress down Rep. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) for a press release about students who attend charter schools. Speaker of the House Rep. Kent Williams (R CCR -Elizabethton) called him out of order and directed him back on the bill a couple of times with little impact.

Rep. Les Winningham (D-Huntsville) commented that this was "an opportunity to be able to start schools and make them be accountable". That no one wants failing schools. That they'll be no more expansion of charter schools until it's all reviewed in 2015.

Maybe no one "wants" failing schools but as was pointed out by one speaker (and I'll review the video and figure out who it was) the Legisalture has allowed too many students to remain on the plantation and has failed over and over to hold regular public schools accountable. It's OK for those public schools to fail but we'll be derned if we'll let a charter school get away with not graduating every one of their students.

I'll upload and add some YouTube videos later today. Some of these words shouldn't be forgotten at election time.

UPDATE: The Jones/Kelsey kerfuffle likely stemmed from this quote in the Chattanoogan.
Charter school expansion will help poor children have a chance to receive a quality education,” said Rep. Kelsey. “Our public school system is the last vestige of slavery. It traps many impoverished kids into a system of poor education with very little chance of success. I’m glad that this bill continues to pick up bipartisan support from the local level all the way up to the presidency.” Chattanoogan
UPDATE II: Rep. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) comments at the Nashville Post that the press release with the comment above was sent out on Tuesday (two days ago) in anticipation of the House bringing the bill back yesterday. So, apparently, it looks like there wasn't any plot to spring this press release moments after the bill vote. Of course, I'm sure Rep. Jones and those that have fought hard to control education choices are still not happy.

Hat tip (twice): AC Kleinheider at Nashville Post

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