Friday, September 30, 2005

The private sector does it better.

I was cooking a huge tube of Odom's sausage in preparation for pizza and movie night around here while listening to this television report on a chef in England who, disgusted at the school lunch program, decided to do something about it.

Jamie Oliver was the ABC News Person of the Week and their report outlined the remarkable work he had done for the school children in England.

Oliver took on nearly 60 schools in London and promised to deliver healthy food to every kid for the same price. He sought to improve 21,000 student meals a day, and all the while, Oliver filmed the process for a television program.

OK, so at least I'm feeding that sausage to my own children (yes it was drained)--and making them work it off by rolling the dough and doing the dishes. When you take on the task of feeding other people's children it's another kettle of fish.

Earlier, this week anotherABC news report was wondering why FEMA couldn't react as quickly as Wal-Mart did during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It was another one of those great teaching moments for the children. We decided that a big part of the answer was that Wal-Mart knew that if they could get in there quickly, they'd be the only store in town and they'd make a lot of money. THAT incentive just cannot be matched by any government entity. There are too many hoops to jump through, too many liability issues to deal with, too much waiting around for authorization and money to flow through the pipeline.

That public v. private effort was clearly illustrated in today's USA Today report about Karl "The Mailman" Malone's efforts to help in Pascagoula, MS. He and his crew cleared 114 lots down there. Brought everything they needed to do the job and had no qualms about just pitching in and doing what had to be done. They didn't ask permission. FEMA and the Corps of Engineers were stopped by laws but Karl and his crew risked everything and got the thanks of the neighborhood. If he does get sued surely this remarkable effort would be covered by a Good Samaritan law. It ought to be.

Pre-K for all

And the Governor is quoted in the Oak Ridger Friday morning:

Bredesen said Lana Seviers, his state education commissioner, a Clinton resident and former Oak Ridge educator, is doing a "great, great job." He said he wanted to spend the rest of his term working on issues such as providing pre-kindergarten classes to anyone who wants his or her child to have the opportunity. [emphasis added]

It's not about just those from families that won't or cannot provide good parenting. Parents across the state are going to wonder why they're paying for daycare when the state will provide it free. And a lot of more intimate and loving places will be put out of business. I'm not sure the children will really be better off. But there is big money in education--whether you do it well or not.


This is why it's so hard to believe that MNPS needs more money. We're hardly past the handwringing over the failure to get the 1/2 cent sales tax increase and the horrors that will result in loss of jobs and services and, if I'm reading this correctly, MNPS is fixing to spend $494,000 for 11 more Pre-K classes. How can that be?

Of course, to me the whole idea is just wrong. 4 year olds need to be at home with their families. If not with mom or dad, grandma or gpa or some wonderfully loving person that will snuggle with them as they read a book, let them explore the backyard, get dirty looking for bugs and fingerpainting, explain why the sky is blue and teach them how to touch that sky with their toes as they swing.

For Immediate Release Contact: Woody McMillin (615) 259-8404/office Metro Schools to open 11 new pre-kindergarten classes Oct. 3 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 29, 2005) – Eleven Metropolitan Nashville public schools will open pre-kindergarten classes Monday, Oct. 3. Each classroom can serve up to 20 students and will be staffed by a certified teacher and an educational assistant. MNPS used an existing needs survey to determine which schools would receive the classrooms, based on the populations they serve. Attendance in a quality pre-kindergarten program is known to help prepare children with the behavioral and academic skills needed for success in kindergarten. “Children who have experience in a quality Pre-K program enter school ready to learn,” said Florence Kidd, director of Pre-K-4 for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. “They already have experience in a classroom setting and the social skills needed to interact with other children and the teacher. We also know they frequently have better academic success.” The Pre-K classrooms will open at the following elementary schools: Amqui, Bellshire, Hattie Cotton, Cumberland, Glengarry, Alex Green, Haywood, Inglewood, Tom Joy, Old Center, and Paragon Mills. While some classrooms are full, there are open seats at some schools. To enroll their child, families should contact the school to see if space is available and fill out a registration form. Families must live in the school zone and show proof of residency. Children must be four years old by Sept. 30, 2005, have all required immunizations, and be potty trained before they may enroll. Parents must provide transportation. The school day is from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Lunch and breakfast are provided. Each classroom will cost approximately $100,000 annually to operate, with grant money from the Voluntary Pre-K for Tennessee initiative paying 56% of that cost and a local match paying the remaining 44%. MNPS currently has 49 Pre-K classrooms. Metro Nashville Public Schools provide a range of educational opportunities to nearly 73,000 students in Nashville and Davidson County. The governing body for MNPS is the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Board of Public Education, a nine-member group elected by residents of Metropolitan Nashville. For more information, please visit <> . ###

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thursday 9/29/05

Gov. Bredesen receives RIF "Gift of Reading" award.

Washington, September 27, 2005 — Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF®) today recognized four individuals and one company for their respective work supporting children’s literacy during the inaugural “Gift of Reading” awards ceremony, sponsored by Capital One, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Rebeca MarĂ­a Barrera, founder of the National Latino Children’s Institute; Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen; the Committee for Economic Development; Hugh B. Price, former president and CEO of the National Urban League; and James E. Rohr, Chairman and CEO of the PNC Financial Services Group were presented with engraved crystal books for their significant achievements in expanding literacy and educational opportunities for our nation’s at-risk children.


While many elected officials say they place a high priority on education, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s actions stand out. And it is his encouragement of reading initiatives and expansion of access to the state’s pilot pre-K program to every 4-year-old in Tennessee that have led RIF to honor him. From RIF press release.
And from the comes this quote from Gov. Bredesen:

“My number one priority as Governor is providing the best possible education for our children,” Bredesen said. “And the best investment we can make as a state is to ensure that Tennessee’s children have the tools they need to succeed in school and in life. [Emphasis added.]
He'd have really earned it if he was using his own money. Maybe WE can at least rotate displaying that award (a crystal book) amongst the people that actually are paying for it all.

And his words of support for education would mean more if he had actually voted (one way or the other) in the recent referendum to increase the sales tax rate in Davidson County "for education".

Getting BEP'd on the backside

Roger Abramson has an article in this week's Nashville Scene that is worth a read. A great reminder of what Nashville Mayor Purcell said and then what he did regarding the Basic Education Program. History can be such an inconvenience dontcha know.
But things are different now, as they often are when it’s your ox that’s getting gored. So we’ll have to forgive the governor if he smirks to himself a bit when he hears Purcell complain about a state funding mechanism that he himself put into place when he and his right-hand man were muckety-mucks in state government.
BEP headache coming on

Just reading this article from the Fayette County Review makes my head hurt--what must it be like for folks who actually HAVE to make sense of this?

A representative from the Tennessee Department of Education responded to questions last week from members of the Fayette County Commission and School Board regarding the state's Basic Education Program requirements. [Take two aspirin before clicking here.]

More beyond the core mission

Creative Liberty blogs about a recent health survey done by Vanderbilt Hospital on Metro Nashville Schools and asks some very good questions about the real purpose of the survey, some explanation of why the survey questions are off base and provides some reasonable answers to why 'failing' may be a good thing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Access for mere citizens.

Here's my public endorsement of the call for specific ethics reforms as outlined by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research and Tennessee Tax Revolt.

They recommend, and I heartily endorse:

  • Recording and posting all House and Senate floor, committee and subcommittee votes on final action for any bill on the General Assembly website within two hours of the vote.
  • Providing that every bill scheduled for a floor vote for final action be made available in fully amended form on the legislative website 72 hours before the vote.
  • Amending both the Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act so they apply to the proceedings of the General Assembly.
  • Offering video streaming and archiving of all Senate and House general sessions and committee sessions.
  • Requiring FULL disclosure on the legislative website of amounts spent by those that employ lobbyists or spend money to influence legislation and completely outlawing contingency lobbying fees.
  • Prohibiting lobbyists from serving on State boards and commissions
I couldn't agree more with their statement:

"We believe citizens are not engaged because the General Assembly has consistently refused to provide the tools and opportunities necessary for Tennesseans to become knowledgeable about the political system and exercise their voices within government."

Government naturally creates a dependent society and works hard at protecting itself. One way that happens is by keeping folks out of the information loop. It worked for the church priests of old when they kept the Scriptures in Latin, it still works when our legislative priests create and maintain a convoluted legislative process. It takes a long time to begin to get up to speed even if you do have the time and ability to travel to Nashville, hang out in the halls and hearings, get to know how the system works (and then how it really works), who the players are and who you have to deal with in order to get something done.

I've spent 6 years trying to teach folks how to interact with the system and while homeschoolers are among the most successful citizen lobbyists I've barely scratched the surface in getting them involved. The fact is we mere citizens actually have jobs and responsibilities that cannot be overlooked in order to oversee our very own representatives. And that is something those who don't want to submit to accountability count on.

Rep. Stacy Campfield blogged about a meeting recently that created a program called "Tennessee Trust". While the comments have been removed I did suggest that it should be renamed 'Tennessee Trust But Verify". Legislators have got to go overboard in providing verifiable information and then, perhaps, after years of citizens finding nothing out of order, perhaps then we'll actually begin to trust again. Until then the innocent and the guilty must suffer under a cloud of suspicion.

So let's begin to remove that cloud by embracing legitimate accountability and e a s y access by citizens to the information they must have in order to know what their own representatives are doing.

And I'll push this even further down the pipeline. Every government entity ought to adhere to these rules. Citizens across the state need information from every governmental entity. Yesterday was the time to provide it.

Wednesday 9/28/05

It ain't gonna happen. And if it does, we're in bigger trouble than we are now.

“I want to drive the private schools in East Nashville out of business,” board member Lisa Hunt said Tuesday night, explaining she wants there to be no reason families would not choose public schools. From the Nashville City Paper

This just isn't going to happen. As long as we have a population that is allowed to think differently about what should be the goal of education and how to get there we must have options and the public school system should not have as its goal driving private alternatives out of business. Maybe she meant this light heartedly, but to those who see the downside of our current government monopoly over our education system already, it just isn't funny.

Update: The Moore's on are this his view and her view.

Wiser decisions.

That same City Paper article mentions that, thankfully, the school board isn't going to automatically shut down smaller schools but that a variety of criteria will be used to determine which schools will close in their efforts to, finally, cut costs.

The board plans to audit which choice schools are an asset and which are unique in name only, indicating some smaller schools may be valued if they are shown to help in the district’s goals.
Every school should have to prove its worth. Not just the 'choice' ones.

Update: Larry Brinton points out some less than wise decisions regarding the central office restrooms and those playing fields.

Information is key.

The City Paper also reports this morning that the head of the school district's information technology department is leaving to work for Microsoft as a liaison state and local governments.

When [Richard] McKinney first assumed his post, Governing Magazine had graded Nashville’s IT department the worst in the country. But under McKinney, Metro’s network made great strides, and for the past two years, it has been ranked among the country’s top 10 by the Center for Digital Government, a national research institute.
Penny wise and pound foolish comes to mind. I'm thinking we ought to have let a couple of adminstrators go to pay to keep this guy on board. Communication is so important and IT can save us a good deal of time and provide us so much important information. I'm hoping he managed to train an awesome replacement or we're going to see more than just attendance being taken by pencil and paper again.

Beyond the core mission.

I'm of the mind that the core mission of public education is very narrow. You'll have a hard time convincing me that it includes indoctrination by the Southern Poverty Law Center via their video on civil rights. This video, we're told, equates the struggle by certain parties to have their form of mutual love accepted as on par with the struggle by people of color to obtain full personhood.

Susan Whitworth, the school system’s library services coordinator, then convened a committee, which voted to restrict the video to grades 5-12. Nashville City Paper
Ms Whitworth misses it and Councilwoman Brenda Tucker is right on target when she backs parents in their right to make these decisions about when and how to broach these issues. It's not the public school system's job to teach these things, it's not their job to decide what the appropriate age is to expose our children to these issues--it's the job of the child's parent(s). These are the sorts of things that will always keep private education in business. (See Lisa Hunt's comments at the top.)

Blue Ribbon Schools.

It's nice to see Memphis has at least one school on this list of newly awarded Blue Ribbon Schools.

The other Tennessee schools on the list are Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, Delano Elementary School in Memphis, and Dyersburg High School. Via WATE
I predict a black market on Snickers and Chips Ahoy.

The guidelines approved earlier this year by the State Board of Education are considered some of the strictest of any state because they ban candy bars and soft drinks, limit portion sizes and restrict any foods high in fat, salt, sugar and caffeine. From the Tennessean.
Budding entrepreneurs are already working on their business plans.

What's the purpose of recess?

From Knoxville is more on the lawsuit about reading the Bible during recess.

There are other kids that are reading their 'American Girl Doll' magazines, yet others that are reading their 'Harry Potter' books. Luke wants to get in the corner of the playground and read his Bible."

Whitson and his parents filed a federal lawsuit -- Whitson v. Knox County Board of Education -- against the Knox County School District in June. They are seeking a preliminary injunction so the ten-year-old can read the Bible with classmates on the playground as the case progresses. From Agape Press.

If every child isn't prohibited from reading during this free time this isn't going to fly. Maybe they'd prefer the child read something from the American Library Association's Banned Book list instead? Curiously, The Bible isn't on that list. Hmmmm...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Another 10 grand wasted.

"[Metro Nashville] Council recently appropriated $10,000 for an economic impact study to determine whether the high number of out-of-county employees has a detrimental effect on the local economy." From the Nashville City Paper.

Today's Nashville City Paper has an article regarding a non-binding resolution to ask Mayor Purcell to require Metro employees to live in Nashville. It has never made sense to me that folks who come into our city to work take all those taxpayer dollars, excepting lunch money perhaps, out of county. I can't think of a better first line of accountability than having the very people who create our city live with their creation. You want to improve public education--make teachers enroll their students there. You want to improve public health care--make that the primary health care provider for public employees. You want to improve social security--make government employees participate.

How dare these folks fight for and demand higher wages and benefit and tax increases to pay for them and not be willing to foot the property bills to pay for them? How dare they tell us with one side of their mouths how great this city is and then refuse to walk the talk? According to this article the deputy mayor doesn't live in Nashville. How can that be?

And if disaster should strike, will they be able to get back into Nashville to do their jobs? Or will they stay in their own communities and render help their neighbors and family instead? This ought not to be. It's a no brainer and another $10,000 that could have gone toward the schools, or seniors or better public transportation to relieve congestion on those interstates leading out of town.

Academic Protectionism

The local Nashville homeschooling community is quite concerned about a recent letter received from Bill Troup of the Parks and Recreation Department here. Apparently, he's denied a local homeschooling group permission to continue using their local community center.

This group reports that for the last four years they've gotten together at the Bellevue Community Center and taught their children there once a week for two hours. "The parents pooled their talents and swapped teaching subjects like electricity, soil science, botany, etc to the group." That cooperative effort means the program is free of charge to participating families. Additionally, they report that the group gets along will with the staff at the Bellevue Community Center are are not being 'kicked out because we left giant messes or were rude".

It seems Mr. Troup is concerned that about the conflict between homeschooling and public schooling. Specifically he wrote on August 26, 2005:

"To insure that we are not in conflict with our mission, and with the mission of the Metro Public Schools, we cannot provide meeting space on a permanent or extended basis for academic instruction by private schools, charter schools or home school groups."
This is old-fashioned protectionism of the public education system. Homeschoolers can use their city's services IF they'll participate in classes and programs created by the Parks & Recreation Department after the department is satisfied that there is a 'demonstrated demand and available facilities'. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. Can there be any better demonstration of demand than this group's four year history? These parents are being penalized for meeting their own needs with available resources. Their sin is providing 'academic instruction' to their own children on property that is partly owned by them as citizens.

One parent commented: "They'd let our kids color flowers, but cutting up flowers, drawing the parts and then labeling them can't be accommodated. Figure that out!"

Is it the job of every Metro agency to protect every other Metro agency? It is the job of Metro to ensure that our public schools aren’t subject to any sort of competition? Is this going to extend to the libraries where homeschoolers regularly and heavily utilize those facilities instead of the public school? Will it then continue on to say the parks themselves where lots of homeschoolers meet on a regular basis, the Parthenon, on to the State Museum? This could get ridiculous if not nipped in the bud.

I understand that Metro cannot guarantee that their facilities will always be available however; if these facilities are open and available to the public it shouldn’t matter if it’s the local senior citizens group or a bunch of moms and their children. I understand that Metro isn’t in the business of providing space for money making entities, however, most of these homeschool groups don’t make money, they usually barely cover expenses. What about all those day-cares that bring van loads of children to library story hours? We’ve got Pre-K programs being funded by the state now. Are those children going to be denied access also as their day-care is in competition with the public system?

If educating children is the most important thing a community can do why are we penalizing these parents who are actually saving taxpayers money by taking on the job themselves? If their children were enrolled in public school they'd be costing the city a lot more than the relatively few dollars it takes to use facilities that are already open, consuming utilities and has a paid staff member present. These parent/taxpayers are contributing financially to the public education system for which they get very little in return. They most certainly don’t get any services from the public school system. Community resources like the parks and libraries are fundamental for them and they’ll be lots of objections to being shut out of these.

Full Text of the Metro Parks letter:
August 26, 2005
Dear Home-School Parent,

Thank you for your interest in utilizing our community center to
enhance your child's home school experience. We are pleased to work
with you and your children within the context of the Parks and
Recreation department's mission.

Currently, we are offering a free program of activities that
includes organized athletics, open recreation and visual arts
classes specifically for the home-schooling community. These
activities are open to all residents, and program offerings can be
expanded based on demonstrated demand and available facilities. We
also have several community centers throughout the city that are
very interested in developing new programs and activities
specifically for home-school children and families.

We are, however, limited in the scope of the services that we can
provide. To insure that we are not in conflict with our mission, and
with the mission of the Metro Public Schools, we cannot provide
meeting space on a permanent or extended basis for academic
instruction by private schools, charter schools or home school

Again, use of our facilities for recreation, and participation in
any of our programs and activities by your group is encouraged.
Please let us know how we can serve you in these areas. Thank you
for your patronage of our programs and for your understanding of our


Bill Troup
Superintendent of Recreation

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Rest of the Story

If there was ever a better example of why you have to read several news sources than demonstrated in the contrast between the Memphis Commerical Appeal's coverage of yesterday's District 29 race vs. the coverage by TeamGOP I can't think of it.

From the Commercial Appeal we get:

Election Commission Chairman Greg Duckett said election results were delayed because a voting machine cartridge at Raineshaven Elementary School was not picked up and the building was locked.

"Every election we end up with somebody locking something up in a building," Duckett said.

Sounds like no big deal. Happens all the time. No news here.

But from TeamGOP we get some valuable illumination:

['s General Chairman Jeff ] Ward was referring to a troubling development at one heavily Democrat precinct where Roland campaign staffers reported that precinct was one of the few where no poll watchers were present. At the conclusion of the electioning, polling location officers only turned in two of the three voting machine cartridges that tallied the votes with no verifiable paper trail.
Maybe folks in Memphis just innately understood most of that, but from over here in Nashville, I was very glad for the additional information.

Update: more details on the astonishing (and throughly suspicious) win afforded by that one missing cartridge from Simply I via Bob Krumm.


On the local public school e-list one member writes in asking why schools are always blamed for the needed tax dollars, why doesn't the council fully fund the schools and make the trash collectors or policemen go begging for money. The poster even goes so far as to say that funding the schools cannot be left to a roll of the dice by referendum and finishes by saying it's clear that Nashvillians don't believe Metro schools are worth the money.

Let me respond:

Schools always get blamed, imo, because the school budget takes up a HUGE portion of the total Metro budget, because there is so little legitimate accountability about where the money goes, because it's a cheap heart tugging trick to say 'it's for the children' when you're a union rep protecting your members paychecks but won't support paying excellent teachers excellent wages, because the schools have muddied their core mission and offended a great number of taxpayers (and parents) in doing so.

A referendum isn't a roll of the dice--at all. It's the most legitimate and open way of discussing the issues, letting the public (taxpayers) test the arguments and then making their decision, which we then live by. If your side didn't win it's not the fault of the voters for not understanding your point of view. The losing side failed to make their case. The objections by some of these tax increase folks that voters cannot/should not be trusted is really scary. It's coming off like democracy can't be trusted. Do we really want to go there?

Further, that whole "education is the most important thing" motto was way wrong and arrogant, to boot. How many people could look face to face with a firefighter or policeman and tell THEM that education was more important than protecting life and limb? We ought to be thankful that they had enough integrity to ignore any of those signs on front lawns of burning homes and chose not put that motto to the test.

I think the poster is on the right track in saying they'll hold their councilman's feet to the fire. The whole budget process needs work. They should also throw plenty of heat Mayor Purcell's way, especially if he intends to run for mayor again. He showed a huge lack of leadership, especially for a guy who put so much emphasis on education in the beginning.

Educating our children is very important. I don't think anyone in Nashville disagrees. We disagree on how it's being done. There are too many other programs and systems that are doing a better job for lots less money so we know that a larger budget isn't necessarily the answer. If the current restructuring means less fluff and a focus on the fundamentals and no more 'pre-literate teens', fewer remedial college courses, and higher TCAP scores it will become clear that the voters were right. But it doesn't really matter if they're right or not. It's their money. They do have a voice in how it's spent. If they won't hand it over for pet projects those pet project proponents will have to fund them from other sources.

Finally, we need to seriously discuss how much and what sort of a 'free' education is required of government. If we've learned anything from TennCare it's that taxpayers cannot afford to give away Cadillac heath care. And while I'm certain not all our schools are giving away anywhere near a Cadillac education, I don't think that should even be the goal. It ought to be a practical, no nonsense and reliable educational vehicle. Something that can get you from point A to point B. But if you want AC, tilt steering, cruise control and white walls take what we've given you , head to the dealership and start trading.

Supply & Demand

The Nashville school system has got to find quality teachers to fill spots that no one really wants for various factors which include working conditions and higher pay elsewhere. From the Nashville City Paper comes this report:

School Board Chair Pam Garrett said the study, estimated to cost several thousand dollars, would essentially provide board members with a summary of research and how the two types of pay are best applied in other school systems.

Merit pay is performance-based pay while incentive pay is designed to attract teachers in short supply — such as math and science teachers — or to entice good teachers to transfer to under-performing or at-risk schools.
This is what supply and demand is all about. There are, obviously, some teaching jobs that are going unfulfilled. What the folks in the real world do is start increasing the pay and benefits to attract the people that can do those jobs. We don't need to spend money to ask if it's a good idea or how other systems are doing it. You just start advertising the positions at higher and higher pay rates until the job is filled.

Oh, but there is a large obstruction in the way:

"...currently the teachers’ union wouldn’t allow for such a system unless it was given to all teachers."

Seems to me their interests are not the interests of Nashville citizens and children. And if all the teachers know that working in an inner city school or specialties like science pay more, it's fair enough.

“Our first goal and most important goal is to negotiate that with the union. We couldn’t afford to pay it tomorrow unless the union would allow us to and they are very against merit and incentive pays,” [School Board Finance Chair Kathy] Nevill said.
Our first and most important goal?

From Drew Johnson of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research come these merit pay resources. Drew tells me that there is an amazing difference between the Hamilton County and Metro Nashville school districts. Maybe merit pay is the reason why.

An article from Jay Matthews at the Washington Post titled "A Move to Invest in More Effective Teaching". This article highlights what Tennessee's Hamilton County is having success with.

This eight page .pdf article about merit pay attempts in Tennessee from Education Next s titled "Dollars and Sense What a Tennessee experiment tells us about merit pay".

And for the statisical comparisons between Hamilton & Davidson counties go to: Enter Hamilton or Davidson County in the "View System Report Card" drop down.

And from today's funny pages come a Mallard Fillmore comic that aptly describes this pay situation. The top panel of this group.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Stunning may be the only word to describe the reaction of Nashville proponents of the sales-tax increase referendum that failed 70% to 30% margin yesterday. Anger will probably rise, shortly.

The time for leaders to come to the forefront with sleeves rolled up and bringing a commitment to do the hard work of reworking the budget has come. Hand wringers and whiners should just stay home, you'll only waste their time. If our elected officials (school board and council members) are unwilling to do this job they need to step down.

If you want to give them some help you can read the current budget at the MNPS site. I thought that starting my reading with what the MNPS calls "Budget Highlights" would have been helpful before actually reading the numbers, but I found it to be mostly PR. It was chock full of phrases that sound good but really don't mean a thing. It's as if, lacking hard facts and numbers to justify, like junior highers, they padded the assignment with extra words and bigger printing to bring it up to the required number of pages or keywords the teacher required.

  • Raise the bar and close the gap to produce exemplary graduates from every school.
  • helping them make greater academic achievement
  • to facilitate a successful transition to high school
  • increase promotion rates
  • appropriate level of psychology testing
  • highly successful program that helps underrepresented students
  • to expand this successful program
  • strengthen streamlining staff and improving technology support
  • *pending MNEA negotiations
  • Positioning our resources and operations to fulfill our vision for all our students
  • Build community ownership through trust and confidence
As I began to read certain phrases kept coming up again and again. No, they weren't curriculum, teacher salaries, utility expenses or even 'supplies' they were the words transportation, feeding, discipline, health and counseling. Well, obviously, we spend a great big chunk of that $570 million budget on stuff that isn't really education. Things I think exceed any mandate the government may have to educate its citizenry.

Some comments in the local papers are of concern to me.

Nashville Tomorrow's Kendall Poole: "We're disappointed that our message wasn't received, but we know it's not an easy proposition for voters to accept, voting a tax hike on themselves."
Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell in the context of the multiple votes that were required to obtain our metropolitan form of government seemed to be saying that it took a couple of votes to get the metro government and so the same will happen with this issue. "It will happen again sooner than most people imagine possible. You keep the faith for these kids and for our seniors."
Dewey Branstetter described as an attorney who is considering a run for mayor is quoted as saying: "People usually will not vote a tax increase, and that's what we elect representatives to do. We elect representatives to fund budgets." From the Tennessean.

So let's see if I'm following this correctly, we'll keep voting until we get the results we want, spending a half a million dollars every time. And we'll do an end run around the citizens by going to elected representatives to get this money.

The best quote may come from Steve Glover, the government liaison for the district's Parent Advisory Council. "Unfortunately, there were things we couldn't control."

Like voters. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tuesday 9/13/05

Citizen Bredesen

Gov. Bredesen hasn't voted in the Nashville referendum regarding the sales tax increase according to this morning's City Paper. It is appallingly shameful for the chief executive officer of our state to have failed in this most fundamental responsibility of citizenship. Yes, I know he's a busy man--but that's why we have early and absentee voting.

Separation of schools and politics

I sure hope someone follows through on the shenanigans that have occurred during campaigning over this sales tax increase in Nashville and legal actions are taken and people are punished for this over the top nonsense. Taxpayers should never have their resources used to advocate for one side or the other of an issue. Our school superintendent should not be encouraging our employees to man phone banks encouraging folks to vote for this referendum. And this morning the Tennessean reports that flyers were to be sent home with children to encourage their parents to vote for this tax increase. Thankfully, it was stopped. But there is no way of knowing what was said in classrooms to children that did reach home.

It makes you wonder if these bright folks are the ones teaching our children and this sort of politicking seem OK to them--what on earth are they teaching our children?

When teachers and administrators operate as political puppets they've wasted whatever professional cache they have. I know how hard it is to work in an environment that won't allow dissent. I know what it's like to keep your mouth shut about an issue because you want to keep your job. Those are outrageous working conditions and they should not be tolerated. It's going to take brave folks to stand up and point fingers but hopefully some whistle blowers will rise up and they'll be protected for telling the truth.

Bloggers are all over this: Nashville Files & Nashville Files again with pictures of the flyers, Moore Thoughts has several entries, Larry Brinton, Mike Rose.

But no separation yet

Knox News reports that the mayors of Davidson, Knoxville, Hamilton and Shelby counties--

The mayor of Tennessee's four most populous counties will meet in Knoxville later this month to try forging a united front on changes to a state education funding system that they believe discriminates against urban areas.
Isn't their job to administrate the resources they have? Isn't it our job, as citizens, to advocate to our legislators regarding BEP changes?

Sometimes you learn too much in school and not enough at home.

A 12 year old girl in Knoxville learns during a lesson on drinking and driving that her father died as a result of drinking and driving. This brings up a lot of questions to include who thought 12 was the time for such videos, how is it she didn't know her father's real name, how is it no one took the time to explain how her father died?

There is no more powerful life lesson than telling your children the stupid things you did and letting them know how much you regret those actions.

Government is in the education business.

Not content with K-12 alone government is regularly trying to get even more deeply entangled in the college arena to the point of trying to sell even more college educations. The Nashville City Paper tells us that Tennessee Higher Education Commission is utilizing funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation to market college education to nine southern states. I'm of the opinion that college is another area that ought to be left to the private sector.

And yes, that's the same Bill Gates that managed to do quite well for himself despite dropping out of college.

Nashville Sales Tax vote

I'm headed out the door to cast my "Against" vote. I'm not voting against because I hate children. I've got four that are more precious to me than life. Their friends are gems. And I fully realize that the children of today will be ruling my world tomorrow. I WANT these children to be well educated. I'm not voting against because I hate old poor people. Such just isn't the case. I value my elders. Their wisdom and love for me have been life savers more than once. It was they that taught me that spending more money on a product doesn't equal the right product or even an excellent one.

I object to the Nashville Tomorrow folks saying in yesterday's press release:

Please tell all of your friends that a half-cent increase in the local sales tax now could prevent a 38-cent property tax hike in the next two years.
Well it could...but it's a long way from guarantee. And for them to link the two is misleading.

I'm voting against because I'm completely unconvinced that the money the school district is already getting is being wisely and efficiently spent. I'm unconvinced that school money won't be 'bait & switched' out of the general fund and schools will become dependent upon the fluctuating sales tax which I consider very foolish. I'm unconvinced that the council will always provide property tax relief to seniors every year in exchange for this raise in the sales tax.

At the very least this ordinance was poorly written lacking just the sort of guarantees and accountability any financial bill ought to have. At the worst, many of us are being manipulated for political purposes and our children and elderly are their pawns.

The tool I have at this moment to make it clear to the education system that the quality of their product is sub par and needs serious improvement is via the ballot box. And so here I go. Whether you agree with me or not, I hope to see you there.

Here's a link to my previous post with details about just what we're voting on for your information.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday 9/9/05

TSSAA and Katrina:

We've got reports of the numbers of children in Metro Nashville and Knox County , Bristol Bedford County, that are headed for our public school system, homeschoolers are stepping up and helping their own transition and I'm sure that private schools will also be impacted.

At a point where we are just getting out and beginning again it never occurred to me that sports participation was going to be a problem. But apparently it is--er--actually isn't.

[TSSAA Executive Director Ronnie] Carter said student-athletes who produce a change of address with their families will be eligible to participate in sports, if they are academically eligible. He said other cases must be dealt with individually through hardship rulings.

“I don’t think we’ll have to do be doing any investigation to see if they’re still keeping a residence in New Orleans,’’ Carter said. “That’s a bonafide change of resident, wherever they’re going. Move them through. Relieve them of any anxiety. From the Chattanoogan.
And at Greene County Online:

Of course if you're merely a Tennessee homeschooler--don't bother. There are no hardship rulings for you. One of the objections to homeschooler particpation has been that there are such a small number of slots and it isn't fair to give those to students that aren't attending the school. I'm all for compassion for those in these most trying of circumstances but they get one of those precious slots before taxpaying neighbors?

Sullivan County considering consolidation. Several previous efforts have failed:

A resolution sponsored by Commissioner Ralph Harr of Bristol requests the use of professional assistance for the study and would allocate up to $12,000 for the purpose.

The resolution will be discussed Wednesday and Thursday during county committee meetings.

Tennessee officials are examining the possibility of requiring one school system per county.

Well, at least they're honest about its purpose.

From WVLT comes this announcement which seems to come from the Patting Ourselves on the Back Society.

The Tennessee School Boards Association has chosen Johnson City Press education writer Sam Watson to receive its inaugural Horizon Award.

The award goes to one reporter in the state and recognizes a journalist who has developed a relationship with a local school board that benefits both.
Congrats, Sam.

But is the training helping children?

The TSBA is also handing out awards to two Cheatham County school board members.

“Tennessee is very progressive in the training of school board members,” [school board member Barry] Breen added. From The Ashland City Times.

How does participation " in numerous workshops, training sessions and conferences" actually translate into helping "further progress in Cheatham County schools" by way of increased test scores, tax money saved or other quantifiable changes?

Why so few transfers?

This needs some more examination. It's one thing to mandate these transfers from failing schools but if there are no options, no real choices, the mandate is meaningless.

In Knox County, 195 students - or 6.5 percent of those who were eligible - decided to transfer this year. Nationwide, the percentage hovers around 1 percent, according to the nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy.


"I truly think we are following the intent of the law - to give parents the opportunity to get out of schools that are deemed high priority," [Bert] Lanauze [supervisor of the district's Title I department] said. "We will give you 100 percent opportunity to leave if you desire to leave." From KnoxNews.

Leaving and having somewhere to go are two entirely different things.

Great timing for Nashville Sales Tax vote?

Just in time for Tuesday's sales tax referendum vote comes hand wringing about soaring fuel costs for public schools and the influx of Katrina victims.

Metro schools district officials are tracking expenses directly related to the children who enrolled due to Hurricane Katrina in anticipation of some reimbursement from federal agencies. From Nashville City Paper.

And from the MNPS Press Release of 9/7/05:
The scarcity of diesel fuel in Davidson County has temporarily halted all field trips for students in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. The move was initiated as the MNPS fleet encountered empty pumps at some refueling points and increased prices everywhere.
This may be a blessing in disguise. Fewer field trips may actually translate into more concentration on core skills. Which is, after all, why they're in school. Maybe the Frist, the Adventure Science Center and other popular venues could create and expand traveling shows and bring all of that back into the schools. Having a few more folks from the community actually in the schools is a great way to inform the population about their actual condition and needs.

PTA money:

And speaking of tracking the money, let's not use the same accounting practices as this local PTA member did. Seems the state has discovered $140,000 missing. I'm also amazed that the PTA raised that much money in the first place. But to have not provided some serious accountability and oversight was a mistake no school should repeat. Do you know where you're PTA money is? If your PTA is offended at the questions, talk louder and to more people.

And speaking of fundraising:

The pro-income tax folks have raised over $202,000 dollars to spend on persuading voters that we need hand over more money to schools.

Businessman Orrin Ingram spearheaded the pro-tax-increase group’s fundraising campaign, which has marketed itself as rallying votes “for children and seniors.” Ingram donated $50,000 from Ingram Industries. His brother John Ingram’s company, Ingram Entertainment, gave $10,000. The Service Employees International Union, Local 205, gave more than $23,000 in cash and use of its phone-banking truck. Also on the list are businessmen Ben Rechter, Thomas Frist, Jack Bovender and Cal Turner, as well as former Vice Mayor Ronnie Steine and Metro housing/development head Phil Ryan. From The Tennessean.

Umm...maybe we ought to consider getting Mr. Ingram and that Granberry PTA group together and maybe, just maybe eliminate that costly $450,000 vote altogether?

Oh, and is it too much to ask how the Ingram children were educated?

Another 22nd District Candidate

Another candidate is filling the field for the 22nd District seat recently vacated by Chris Newton. From The Chattanoogan comes this interview with Fred Wilcoxon.

I see a lot of support for the system but no mention of choices, parents or accountability for the system. Perhaps that will be forthcoming.

For our purposes I'll just quote the paragraph about education:

"Education is a vital part of our society and every young person should be provided with the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. I fully support the BEP program and will fight any and all efforts to shift, transfer, or cut current funds from our schools here in Bradley, Meigs, and Polk Counties so that the big cities in Tennessee can reap the harvest on our backs. I support technology improvements in our schools and will work hard to gain additional dollars for our local schools. Also, we need to do right by our retired teachers. The retired teachers pension benefits need to be brought up to livable standards. Our working teachers need the pay and benefits they really deserve. In regards to higher education, the tuition increases over the last four years has made it very evident that young people of working families are not going to be able to afford to go to college. The lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship program and Technology Center Grants have helped alleviate some of the financial burden from the shoulders of our young people, but I will work to stabilize and attempt to decrease tuition costs during my term in office.

I don't have any contact information at this time.

Andrew B. Morgan Education Statement

As noted yesterday, Andrew B. Morgan (Drew) is running for representative in the 22nd District previously held by Chris Newton. As promised Drew forwarded to me his statement on education which I include below.

I like much of what Drew says in this statement. It doesn't get better than a matter-of-fact: "Parents are the primary educators of their children." For the most part parents are the best folks to evaluate and choose an education delivery system that fits their child. It's encouraging to read Drew's statement below in that light. And while I'm sure some folks will take issue with his youth I believe that having recently exited the current K-12 education system his is a voice that we ought to give serious consideration.

So here's what Drew has to say:


Education is the cornerstone of a great society. Parents are the primary educators of their children. Together, we must provide our children with the best education that we can provide. To do this, we must approach education from a new angle. We need to make education more competitive. We need better schools and better learning environments. Parents need choices in where to send their children. Charter schools, private schools and home schooling are all options that are showing good marks in alternative education. We need to make the infrastructure more conducive to allow parents to choose between these other options and traditional public schools.

In public schools, we need to adjust the manner in which we view the pupils. We need to integrate the aspects of college and high school earlier on. Our children need to be able to choose between a technical and collegiate path and we need to have them ready to step up to the new challenges that college will present to them. In higher education, we must raise the bar and expect more from incoming students and continue that throughout the collegiate experience. Furthermore, we must re-evaluate the financial aid system, specifically with the HOPE scholarships. We must focus on those who are truly in need of financial aid. This way, we will have more scholarships for more Tennesseans and can send more money toward bricks and mortar and pre kindergarten education.

Also, we must eliminate the unnecessary red tape that surrounds education, whether it is public, charter, private or home school. We must bring education policy back to the local and state governments. Washington has no business dictating Tennessee’s education policy. Additionally, we must fight to keep the BEP in a position that rural schools will not be pushed aside by larger systems in urban areas.

Contact Drew at

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Andrew B. Morgan runs for Chris Newton's seat

I received during my recovery, a note letting me know that a man named Andrew (Drew) Morgan has announced that he's running for State Rep. Chris Newton's seat after Rep. Newton resigned as a result of the Tennessee Waltz investigations.

J. M. Leonard at has an extensive first interview and photos of the candidate.

I've asked Mr. Morgan for a position statement regarding education, but I'm already thankful he seems to agree with me about the way those running the lottery are being compensated.

Q: Q: I spoke with Governor Bredesen in June of last year and asked how Rebecca Paul and her staff were able to pull down over a million dollars in bonuses within the lottery's first year. That's over and beyond their salaries, and in addition to the $300,000 in unused vacation and sick leave they brought with them from Georgia. Is it just me, or is that a lot of money?
A: The governor has said that to get a good lottery in Tennessee, we needed to get the best people - and to do that, we had to pay them.

Q: Yeah, that's what he told me.
A: And that's fine and dandy. But we're paying these people far beyond the level of rational thought. And like you said, she brought her people in and fixed their salaries. A reasonable person would not be paying these people that much money. If it was up to me, that money would be going toward pre-k education and scholarships, not to some executive's pocketbook. The problem is we've given Rebecca Paul complete control. We need to get some oversight there, as well. I'm very much a hands-off person, but when it comes to government programs, we need oversight. We need control over how we're spending our money.

Mr. Morgan's website: is just a placeholder for now. Check it in a few days. There is an e-mail link so you can contact the candidate.

J. M. Leonard's article includes the information that Elizabeth Kalabas and Eric Watson are also running for the seat. I'm not able to pull up anything from the 'net at this moment about them. I'll be glad to read their education platforms also.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The acts of God.

Finally, seven days afterward we're starting to get encouraging reports of what is happening in the lives of folks along our southern border.

For nearly a week, as I laid in bed recuperating from surgery, I watched way too much network television. Their reports were full of horrifying predictions, blaming and the same films over and over again of the worst elements. All, it seemed, orchestrated to make me phone certain officials and demand heads. What it did do was drive me to prayer for these folks, a prayer that also contained the plea for truth to be revealed.

Finally, yesterday, I was awakened from a doze by a CBN report that contained testimonies of God's grace and the thankfulness of folks who've lost pretty much everything. It was really the first positive news I'd heard since being sent to bed. I saw a man and his finance express their thankfulness to a young man who had built the roof they used as a raft to save their lives. I'll bet it never occurred to that young man to do the best job possible because it would be needed to save lives. A great lesson in making sure that every task we do is done to the best of our ability.

I have managed to ease myself into the chair before my computer and I'm finding a bit more positive information, mostly thanks to the blogsphere. Those folks have become the 21st century HAM radio operators. At the very time that our dependence upon the usual became impossible they were folks that took it upon themselves to get the word out.

Most striking to me was Bill Hobbs reports about the numbers of school busses that remained parked while trusting New Orleaneans gathered downtown. If I learned anything from Y2K it was that we all needed to accept the responsibility of our own preparedness. But, I began to think, somehow, those in New Orleans, and elsewhere, were taught that taking care of themselves was someone else's responsibility and so, understandably, when that wasn't done, they were furious. To have, whether intentionally or not, created a dependent class of folks and not followed through with protecting them is a grave disservice...I believe we'll agree on that. However, it will take a while before we know exactly who let down whom and while we're still plucking folks from rooftops and flooded streets is not the time to stop and have that conversation.

I was dismayed by First Lady Laura Bush's call to get the children enrolled in schools as quickly as possible. I'm no child development "expert", but this mom knows that when the worst happens, children want their mom and dad and family around them for comfort, support and answers. I understand the need for a return to some sort of normalcy, but I don't think that throwing these children into the arms of complete strangers during such a traumatic time is really the best thing to do. I don't care if they miss months of school, their well-being is so much more than what grade they are in. They'll catch up. The lesson they need to learn now is that THEY are safe, now, and that they are loved. Which is something that really is best taught at home with family.

Not at all unremarkable was the "Why did God do this?" question. The raising of that question was a predictable as the blaming of President Bush. My summer reading of "Is God to Blame?" by Gregory Boyd confirmed my own belief that God didn't do this. It wasn't His wrath, it wasn't judgment, it wasn't owed to us (well, death is owed we sinners, yes). If Jesus really was the true representation of The Father, and I have a hard time finding Jesus being wrathful except at the misuse of the Temple, than the acts of God are not the storm, the death, the aftermath it's more along the lines of what this Salvation Army Major had to say.

"Natural disaster is caused by the sin in the world," said Maj. John Jones, area commander for the Salvation Army, who led the service. "The acts of God are what happens afterwards ... all the good that happens." From Reuters.
And, the good that happens during, like rooftops that float by as well as those cases of drinks and fruit cocktail that floated by in answer to prayer, the thousands that were saved from drowning and worse. And good is happening, will happen and will come from even this, the worst natural disaster to hit our country. And it's not because humans are naturally good, it's because God is supernaturally good (all the time). And you cannot hide that news, even with an army of reporters.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina: Pray and Give

I'm recovering from surgery but there are still two things that can be done even from bed concerning Katrina.

1. Pray

2. Give. Salvaton Army online donations.

I encourage you to do the same.