Monday, January 30, 2006

TN Student Health Act

SB2494 by *Ketron. (*HB2522 by *Baird, *Johnson P.)

Education - Enacts the "Tennessee Student Health Act." - Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 50.

This bill creates a council in every LEA, requires the council to develop a plan, assess the district in compliance every year with the help of the local health department, and requires 150 minutes of physical acitvity for K-5 and 225 minutes for 6-8 graders per week. High schoolers are, apparently, allowed to sit on their duffs. It doesn't leave school districts entirely in the lurch financially as the state DOE is required to hire a physical education coordinator and it'll be their job to help LEA's find the money for this effort. It doesn't say who is responsible for finding the time.

Monday 1/30/06

The special session isn't over but legislators have begun filing bills for when it is and the regular session begins. Following are pieces that caught my attention this morning.

*SB2451 by *Cohen.

Lottery, Charitable - Extends annual event application deadline from October 31, 2005, to February 14, 2006, for annual event period beginning July 1, 2006, and ending June 30, 2007. - Amends TCA Title 3, Chapter 17, Part 1.

and if that doesn't pass we have Plan B

*SB2452 by *Cohen.

Lottery, Charitable - Extends annual event application deadline from October 31, 2005, to February 14, 2006, for annual event period beginning July 1, 2006, and ending June 30, 2007; extends annual event application deadline from October 31 each year until December 31 each year for the ensuing annual event period. - Amends TCA Title 3, Chapter 17, Part 1.

Trust abusers: And I can certainly get behind this next one. It seems a no brainer. But in an era of great sympathy for the voting rights of felons I'm not sure that there won't be some squawking about this too. "It's not faaaaiiiirrrr", they'll whine. Neither was abusing the office.

SB2472 by *Hagood. (*HB2484 by *Sargent.)

Public Officials - Prohibits state and local elected officials from seeking elected state or local office after conviction of a state or federal felony related to public service. - Amends TCA Section 40-20-11

Scarlet Letter: considering the recidivism rate of child predators Rep. Finney may be on to something here.

*SB2488 by *Finney.

Sexual Offenders - Requires sexual offenders and violent sexual offenders to carry driver license or photo identification card designating them as convicted sexual offenders and prohibits such offender from operating motor vehicle in this state that does not have special license plate designating person as convicted sexual offender. - Amends TCA Title 55; and Title 40, Chapter 39, Part 2.

I'm not sure the scarlet letter will be very effective. I can see where it would be handy to have citizens know that the guy getting out of the car at the park was a convicted child molester, but we can't rely on them to use their own cars. I do think that having a notation on the driver's license might be a good compromise.

Memorializing: And maybe I shouldn't be but I'm always surprised at the number of bridges/roads that must be named for someone. They've only begun to files bills and so far we've got:

James Robert Haston Memorial Bridge
Laurel Cove Bridge
Sgt. Robert Wesley Tucker Memorial Highway
John Redmond Bridge
Lane-Smith Bridge
Deputy Dennis Ray Armes Memorial Highway
R.L. (Bob) Collier Parkway
Deputy Alan Wayne Shubert Memorial Highway
Staff Sergeant Barton Siler National Guard Armory (OK, not a bridge.)

And the specialty plates issue isn't dead. The following are requesting their own plates to promote or raise funds for their organizations:

Memphis Zoo
Daughters of the American Revolution
Purple Heart plates already exist but legislation introduced would make these free.
Operation Iraqi Freedom (why don't these folks get theirs free?)

I still don't see one from the Planned Parenthood or ACLU folks though. Guess they're still hoping the 6th Circuit will void the entire program--because they're concerned about free speech ya know.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Balanced suffering

Creative Liberty has some interesting feedback from teachers in the Metro Nashville school district about this issue.

What jumped out at me was this paragraph (and I assume when CL typed 'love' it was intended to be 'live'.)

After talking with a few teachers here are some other concerns they have with the balanced calendar. This change in the calendar forces teachers who love outside of Davidson Co. or who have their children in private schools to have to do something with their children for a longer period of time, as far as finding baby sitters and the such.
My big question is why are we hiring teachers from outside Davidson County? Seems to me if you're on the Metro payroll, you ought to live in Metro and enjoy the benefits and suffer the downsides of your employment just like the rest of us.

Those of you with an interest may want to read the overview of the Hillsboro hearing at

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday 1/20/06

I'm clearing off the desktop here.

School Funding--
Adam Groves posted at Bill Hobbs the news from the Commercial Appeal that the state Comptroller John Morgan suggested

the state provide complete funding for public schools, leaving local governments with only their construction costs. The state would create new revenue to cover the cost of fully funding school operations by assuming control of the local share of state sales tax and imposing a new state-wide property tax.
Adam comments:
The fact of the matter is that the Comptroller, by his own admission, concludes that Tennessean tax payers will pay more for this scheme in the long run. If tax payers are paying more, it's hard to reconcile any pitch that includes the notion that governments will save money. How can tax payers end up paying more and the government save money? You don't need more money if you're spending less.
Adam's exactly correct. And, I'll add, this is a move in the wrong direction. Schools need to be funded and controlled locally. According to Mr. Morgan:
To generate the money, the state would seize half of the proceeds from local sales taxes and impose a new state property tax. Morgan said the impact on taxpayers would be largely offset by reductions in local taxes as cities and counties are freed from funding most school costs. Commercial Appeal
Reductions in local taxes...yeah, like that's going to happen.

KIPP: Nashvillians of the Year--

The Nashville Scene awards this prize to this Nashville charter school and more than adequately justifies it with comments like this:
KIPP Academy characterizes itself as a rigorous, college-preparatory middle school where students are taught to “work hard, be nice and be honest.” Just as significantly as behavioral sea changes, achievement among these children, more than 90 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced meals, has soared. During the summer, median class scores showed students were performing at the second-grade level in reading and math. Now students are performing at the fifth- and sixth-grade levels in math. Reading scores have seen similarly dramatic improvements. As recently as October, 10 students were still reading at the second-grade level; now only three do. And, in October, 12 students were reading above grade level; now 23 of the students are.
You need to know about this school. We need to have the freedom to create more schools like this. I was impressed with what they had done in Memphis. I'm glad to read they've done well in Nashville. Let's have these popping up all over the state.

Another scandal, TSBA--

Will it ever end? I'm so weary of reading about more and more scandals. I'm not telling anyone to quite revealing them--bring it all on--but I'm tremendously grieved that this lying, stealing and mismanagement is so pervasive.

Tuesday's Tennessean has details.
"We all believed very much in him [retired executive director Dan Tollett]. Basically, whatever he recommended people trusted him. It was like whatever he said, it was accepted," said Gloria J. Sweet-Love, president of TSBA.
Folks, we've got to stop doing this. We've got to stop being so trusting. We've got to put in legitimate accountability measures and we've got to stop being offended when people ask for that accountability.

Related to this school board lobbying organization is an article the Fall 2005 Insider titled "Taxpayer-funded Lobbying: Tax man vs. Taxpayer. (It's in .pdf format)
Peggy Venable writes:
"Taxpayer-funded lobbying clearly distorts the democratic process. Government should not be in the business of providing funding to give voice to points of view that may not represent the views of the majority of the taxpayers."
I whole-heartedly agree. One part of the government shouldn't be lobbying another part of the government to get more money from taxpayers, or limit citizen input and control. While the members of these organizations are citizens and taxpayers they've got a conflict of interest that should mute their voices.

And kudos to the Bradley County School Board for taking a stand:
The Bradley County Board of Education has zealously guarded the taxpayers' money, and it is diconcerting to learn that a similar respect for public monies was not a priority with the leadership of the TSBA. from Bob Krumm

Way ta go, Drew!--

I love this story. Drew Johnson of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research was curious enough about a closed door in the newly renovated hearing room at the capital to actually open it. And what a surprise. A cozy little get away for legislators.

"I noticed a door in the front corner of Legislative Plaza's Room 12 that I assumed to be a coat closet. When I opened the door, I was shocked," Johnson said. "It was like something out of a Capra movie — a small room with a huge conference table and smoke lingering in the air."
The room's placement behind the senators' official seating suggests it would be uncomfortable for Joe Citizen to barge in. From the Tennessean
And that's because the only way to get to the room is by stepping behind the seats of the legislators to get there.

I'm so glad Drew opened that door. There's a lot of that going on and we need to keep it up until there isn't a square inch down there for anyone to hide.

Speaking of scandals--

My question what point does Ophelia Ford's legislative benefits kick in and how much are they? If she stays through the special session are they at one level? Do her benefits increase once the regular session begins?

Lottery numbers--

The Chattanooga Times-Free Press has done a great overview of the lottery and those scholarships. Looks like keeping that qualifying score low wasn't really a good idea.
Educators have said the 50 percent attrition rate for scholarship recipients is common in states with lotteries, but Jeri Fields-Rampy, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corp., said the scholarship turnover rate is worrisome. Tennessee Student Assistance Corp. is the state’s designated federal guaranty agency for lottery scholarships and other state and federal tuition assistance programs.
"It’s definitely a number everyone would be concerned about, having that many students lose it after the first year," she said. "We want to use the monies in the best and most efficient way possible, and the best way is to work on that turnover number."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I wanna know

The folks at Tennessee Tax Revolt go to bat, again, for me and I'm thankful. This time they're calling for votes to be recorded honestly and made available to citizens and for we mere citizens to have access to bill information that lobbyist have.

Voice votes: Their press release tells everyone what those of us who visit the hill on a regular basis have known for a long time there is very little accountability in how these legislators vote in their committees. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard a call for votes heard some vague mumbling and then the chair declare what the vote was. My children and husband are frequently frustrated by what they have characterized as my "extraordinary" hearing. However, something happens when I'm sitting in those committee rooms and my super-hearing is nearly non-existent when it comes to discerning those ayes and noes. If we're really serious about changing the ethical culture in the legislature we've got to start with something as easy as roll call votes that are published.

I also think TTR's call for that information to be done within 2 hours is more than reasonable.

Bill tracking: And TTR goes on to call for citizens to have access to information that lobbyists have available to them. I guess money does buy access. This is just shameful. No lobbyist ought to have information available to them that taxpaying citizens don't have.

And I'll go a couple further than TTR.

I was amazed one day to learn that the committee hearings aren't always tape recorded! Ever since then I've brought my own hand held that has served quite well as I work at accurately recalling and relaying information to citizens across the state. And so...

I want Speaker Wilder to insist on video streaming of the Senate. I'm tired of 'the senate being the senate'. We only get audio now...while it's better than nothing it could easily be so much more helpful.

I want video streaming of every committee meeting, legislative session, and press conference by legislators, the governor and other agency heads.

I'd even go for a link to the security cameras in the hall so I can know who's schmoozing and flesh-pressing whom.

I want those name badges to be pinned to the chests of lobbyists and staff so that they're always in plain view. Last year they were hung from lanyards that were regularly turned backward and so not available to read. That means I had no idea who was bending the ear of the person entrusted with the care of our state.

I want legislators to have name badges also. Those little pins with the 3 stars are nice enough but it really doesn't tell me anything at all. The whole point is we have the right to know who is doing business down there.

It wouldn't be a bad idea if the legislature actually provided some information in their lobby about where to find what and how to impact the system and give the very folks who are paying for it all some opportunity to find what they need. I think a small kiosk would serve nicely. Maybe we could create a corp of volunteers ala candy-stripers to lend citizens a hand.

It's time, ladies and gentlemen of Tennessee's government, to put up or shut up. Either you're serious about being accountable or you're not.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Standing in the schoolhouse door

Today's must read comes from John Fund at the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal.

Here's the money quote:

Teacher unions have their own answer to the collapse of public education in the inner cities: ship truckloads of money to poorer districts in the name of "social justice." But many Milwaukee parents aren't buying that. They have painfully learned that more money spent on a failed system does not produce better education. They want to make their own decisions about their children's future.

In the early battles over establishing the Milwaukee program, opponents backed down only when Milwaukee parents began comparing Bert Grover, then the state school superintendent, to George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door. The front lines of today's civil rights struggle are not in the South but in Milwaukee.

It happens over and over. Well meaning activists partner with the public school monopoly and refuse to allow children to be educated freely. Instead of fulfilling Dr. King's dream:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
these children are still being judged by their color and not the content of their character. Pres. Bush and his education secretary called it "the soft bigotry of low expectations".

These children can do better if we'd quite assuming that they cannot. Their parents know this, why don't we? Give them the freedom to succeed. Give them the freedom to utilize the education system that suits them. And then--get out of their way.

What excites me about Milwaukee and DC and Cincinnati is that these families are getting their fill. They've realized that their children only have so much time and it cannot be wasted waiting for the promises of others to be fulfilled. They're doing what they must and I wouldn't want to be the one (black or white) standing in the schoolhouse door.

Monday 1/17/06

Commenting on the morning papers in Nashville:

In zoning, whose voice is heard?

I have a lot of empathy with the Sylvan Park/Whitland folks in their recent struggles. We've experienced a bit of this in our own neighborhood. Years ago I remember the local councilman suggesting that folks send all the ballots regarding neighborhood opinion about a project to him and he'd let us know what the outcome was. I rose and pretty much asked him if he'd lost his mind. There was absolutely no accountability in that plan AND he'd be Mr. Mudd if he wasn't careful. This fall we learned that it matters less to some people what the immediate neighbors think about a project than what's in the Sub-area plan devised with input from folks from miles away that don't have to deal with the local problems and might actually benefit by impeding a project. It's a tough situation. I don't have a better plan other than PARTICIPATE at every opportunity.

"Good Start for teacher fast track" and "Teachers want protection"

come together to remind me that what taxpayers and parents want ought to be more important and one of the things that would meet the needs and wants to those taxpayers, parents and students is the ability to hire, fire and pay teachers on a competitive basis. I'm betting there are a lot of teachers that wouldn't mind getting paid competitively either.

The Tennesseean tells us that schools are short on qualified math and science teachers. The reality is that these folks can make more money in the private sector. The reality is school systems are impeded from providing higher wages for teachers filing slots that are in demand by the very union that is calling for protection from NCLB changes. The teacher's union says it's not fair. Darn right it ain't. It ain't fair that people doing excellent work and meeting a need are paid the same as the mediocre who are just passing their students on from grade to grade without ensuring they actually know the material.

I'm all for 'fast tracking' qualified folks to get into classrooms. What counts more than that education degree is that the potential teacher knows the material and has a passion for sharing that.

UPDATE: Sarah Moore seems to agree that Fast Track is just a good start.

"I like the idea - but it’s still too hard. That I could walk into a college classroom and am qualified to lecture, but cannot do the same in a high school setting is mystifying. It probably has something to do with college professors not being unionized."

And this just in--Metro Nashville Public Schools has communication problem.

"The communication gap between Metro staff and parents during meetings to re-evaluate student services was found to be the most serious of seven allegations investigated by the state. " Tennessean

If there is one thing that MNPS is consistent's poor communication. Somehow these folks have got to understand that if they want more money, more resources and support for the changes they feel are needed in their system they've GOT to communicate better.

Iraq rebuilding ends with much left undone

It's January and the Tennessean, via the LA Times, is predicting that come the end of the year much of the promise to rebuild Iraq will have failed. Move over Cassandra, there's a new prognosticator in town. Let's try and remember that during the rebuilding of Europe we didn't have Nazi's coming around blowing up what we'd just repaired, killing teachers in newly opened schools or taking out the folks conducting the Nuremberg trials. This isn't, wasn't and won't be our grandfather's war.

Finally, where are the women?

I can't find this Tennessean page online but it's page 3B in today's edition. It's a great resource sheet for the Tennessee legislature apparently intended for classroom use. It's mostly a seating chart of both the house and senate along with a list of the legislators and some demographic information. But what seems to be missing is skirts. All of the silhouettes look like guys in suits. By their own statistics there ought to be five women depicted. And at least one should be wearing a hat.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Stupid America II

Last evening three of my children (18, 15, 13) and I watched John Stossel's "Stupid in America". Since most of what Mr. Stossel shared I already knew I could watch the reaction of my homeschooled children to this report and try to answer their questions about the absurdity of it all. All in all they were aghast. No, seriously. Their jaws dropped open, they protested what they considered injustice and idiocy and they expressed, again, their thankfulness that they weren't in that situation.

They couldn't believe that a 17 year old was reading at a 4th grade level. In their experience reading isn't hard and the thought that someone had spent so much time in school and wasn't an excellent reader was astounding to them. To them, reading is easy and fun.

They couldn't believe that "Monopoly" was considered an appropriate for a geography class. They immediately suggested "Risk" as a much better alternative.

One daughter, with a very strong sense of justice, interjected several times "That's not fair!" and "This is a capitalistic society--it's what we do!" They found it astonishing that it was so difficult to remove bad teachers. They nodded in agreement when the report featured a private school that was the best in it's district with less money and was still paying teachers more than the public school's were paying their teachers. My children know that it doesn't take thousands of dollars a year to learn and the thought that a classroom could have $250,000 a year and the students be failing was nearly impossible for them to believe.

They supported the private school principal that made the students clean up the campus and set up the lunch room. It's something they do here and so they know it won't kill any students to clean up their own messes.

They were very impressed with the Belgian students' mastery of the English language. They were sure that the New Jersey students wouldn't have been able to speak to a Belgian audience with such fluency and clarity.

They felt like it was a big mistake for that one school district to disallow Mr. Stossel's cameras but allow student film of their school. They knew that what the students filmed would show the school in a worse light than ABC's staff could have. And it most certainly did.

Above all they cannot understand why families don't have options. They used the words insane and oblivious to describe the situation. One asked: "Why don't parents do something!?"

I did learn something new though. I learned that people will actually allow a public school system representative into their homes and the bedrooms (and drawers!) of their children to verify that the child is actually living in the home and therefore attending their zoned school.

Here's Stossel's comment board.

Other blog comments:

Glen Dean: One legislator in that state [South Caroline] said that vouchers would destroy the public school system. I thought to myself, "and that is a bad thing?". We need to destroy and dismantle the public school system. Just like anything else, education needs competition.

Spunky Homeschool: Favorite quote came from Kevin Chavous of the Center for Education Reform. He said, "America doesn't know what it doesn't know." And that's exactly the way many in our government want it to stay. The perfect dependency class.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Stupid America

I'll be tuning into John Stossel's latest work called "Stupid in America" airing this evening on ABC.

There's an overview by Stossel at Reason Magazine. Most of us have heard much of this before. I'm sure it will ruffle plenty of feathers and that makes for good television. But what I really hope is that more folks realize that this monoply must end.

"This should come as no surprise once you remember that public education in the USA is a government monopoly. Don't like your public school? Tough. The school is terrible? Tough. Your taxes fund that school regardless of whether it's good or bad. That's why government monopolies routinely fail their customers. Union-dominated monopolies are even worse."
Metro Nashville is debating whether to have year round school, as are other communities across the nation. Go ahead, rearrange the deck chairs. It won't really do much good though. It's window dressing at best. Until parents are given real freedom to move their children to a school that suits the child the best, we won't see any real improvement. Our recent magnet lottery had 3 students apply for every slot--what more evidence do we need that parents and students want more of those sorts of options? WHY can't they have them?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ya gotta wonder

Press release from Metro Nashville Public Schools:

Achievements And Progress Cited As MNPS Earns
Nomination for Prestigious Broad Foundation Award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 11, 2006) – After reviewing school districts across America, the National Center for Educational Accountability and the Broad Foundation have announced the Metro Nashville Public School district is nominated for the 2006 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The $1 million award given by the Broad Foundation is the largest education prize in the country. It annually honors urban schools that have made the greatest improvements in student achievement while narrowing the achievement gap.
School districts cannot apply for the award. The Broad Foundation and NCEA conduct a rigorous data collection, review and analysis to determine eligibility, looking at many elements of how a district compares with others at the state and national levels.
“This is a tremendous honor for our city and for our schools,” said Metro Nashville Board of Public Education Chairwoman Pam Garrett. “We are very pleased to be nominated and to have national recognition for the significant accomplishments we’ve made in the last few years. While we’re delighted to be nominated, we’re more proud of why that nomination occurred: Because we’re among the best of the best in America in helping all students achieve, and we’re closing the achievement gap that exists between different groups of students.
“The Board and administration of MNPS recognize the achievement gap is not an issue unique to Nashville; it exists in school systems across the nation,” Garrett continued. “We are working hard to end the gap, and that will take a concerted effort going outside the school system, involving parents and the community. With strong community partnerships and great leadership in schools, I believe Nashville can set a national standard for additional progress and results.”
The Broad Foundation is a Los Angeles-based venture philanthropy founded in 1999 by Eli and Edythe Broad. The Foundation’s mission is to dramatically improve urban K-12 public education.
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
# # #
The Broads "have been tireless advocates of Los Angeles"--isn't that where Superintendent Garcia is from?

"Garcia didn’t return calls for this story, but for years it’s been said that he wants to return to California and run the Los Angeles school system—near his beloved University of Southern California." Nashville City Paper


Monday, January 09, 2006

Watch this space...

With the new legislative sessions comes--well, new legislation. As I read through the bills filed I'll be posting snips of the education bills here for y'all to review. I did this last year with the local public school list and folks seemed to really appreciate the heads up so I'll do it here instead.

AND I would appreciate any sort of backstory that you may be able to provide. It's always interesting to me to know some of they whys and didja knows about the bills, the legislator, the real motivation behind the bills, etc. Local media may eventually get around to reporting these bill filings but usually it's not until they're scheduled for hearings and, frankly, sometimes the fix is alreay in. Getting as much lead time in wrestling with these is imporant.

Election Research

Another advantage to not working outside of the home. This SAHM was able to answer the election survey.

As best as I can remember the 30 second survey asked:

Do you have a favorable opinion of President Bush?
Do you consider yourself a Republican?
Have you financially contributed to a political party, church or non-profit?
Do you think marriage should be between one man and one woman?
Do you consider yourself pro-life?
Do you think the senate should approve President Bush's Supreme Court nominee?

Yes to all.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Follow the money--it's yours after all

If you're a unioin member do you know where your dues are going? There is a must read in the Wall Street Journal today.

Under new federal rules pushed through by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, large unions must now disclose in much more detail how they spend members' dues money. Big Labor fought hard (if unsuccessfully) against the new accountability standards, and even a cursory glance at the NEA's recent filings--the first under the new rules--helps explain why. They expose the union as a honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students. (snip)
According to the latest filing, member dues accounted for $295 million of the NEA's $341 million in total receipts last year. But the union spent $25 million of that on "political activities and lobbying" and another $65.5 million on "contributions, gifts and grants" that seemed designed to further those hyper-liberal political goals.

The good news is that for the first time members can find out how their union chieftains did their political thinking for them, by going to, where the Labor Department has posted the details.

Go. Check on your money. If you're fine with how it's being spent...I'm happy for ya. If you're not...we'll there are alternatives.