Monday, May 30, 2011

The paper of record...

I guess the story was too fast breaking to allow a proofreader a quick gander.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Open Letter: HB130: Collective Bargaining

Speaker Harwell,

I’ve been forwarded a purported email from you to a constituent. If this portion is accurate:
We need to protect education, employers and jobs as best we can during these very tough economic times, and I am confident that we will reach a meaningful compromise that is good for our state and education.
"...compromise." I'm quite disappointed that you've apparently chosen to side with continued union control over our schools in an effort to come to a non-confrontational solution. This is an injustice to the students and taxpayers you've been elected to serve. Now is not the time to give ground. HB130 must be passed as is for maximum benefit to the students and for the taxpayers of this state.

I've spent some time on a school board. Nearly had a union rep come across the table at me because I dared to try and hold that 'professional organization' accountable for the status of the students. I've been in the meetings where we learned how tied our hands were because of the union employment contract. I've been in the union halls and seen how confident they are in their power over the system. You, and every legislator on the hill has experienced their muscle flexing as you dare to question their right to control the education system in this state. THAT should give everyone of you adequate reason to vote for this legislation. Voters sent you to the House, in part, to make this very change. You cannot compromise on that charge by them now. 

I have experienced the frustration of trying to improve a school only to have the union declare that an unsubstantiated number of their membership voted against the efforts. School board members who win are more often than not, greatly funded by unions and their volunteers. We even further accommodate them by holding these elections during the summer months when those teacher/staff volunteers are most available. The deck is so stacked in their favor that it's nearly impossible to overcome. One real way to level things is to remove from the playing field the requirement of collective bargaining. We're completely at the mercy of unions regarding their authority to be the bargaining agent. HB130 is our best hope at cleaning house and bringing freedom to these classrooms for both students and teachers. 

Beyond my concerned about the freedom of school districts to operate out from under the control of these unions I point out that we are in exceptional economic times and while the quote seems to indicate a  concern about jobs...taxpayers have been hit hard also. We're out of work. We're doing with less. We cannot afford to employ anyone who isn't pulling their fair share. Collective bargaining and unions do their job all too well and protect deadwood. Taxpayers can hardly pay for the necessities, let alone deadwood. It's an abuse of children to allow that deadwood to remain in classrooms--or anywhere in the system, frankly. The largest budget item in any school system budget is manpower and their benefits. Collective bargaining makes it nearly impossible to make changes to any portion of those budget items.

Finally, this is a right to work state. That should mean the right to hire and fire. If the firing is unjust, we have a court system to work it out. We don't need to tie the hands of good administrators and principals out of fear of being entangled with the union in a show hearing that unnecessarily consumes resources at a voracious rate. Are we hiring good administrators? Then free them up to administrate their schools and systems and dump collective bargaining.

I strongly urge you, as one who has been inside the system, to stand firm and pass HB130 without amendment. This bill is good for the children in Tennessee. It's good for the taxpayers. It's even good for teachers who are excellent at what they do. 

Most sincerely,

Kay Brooks

P.S. To the House Education Committee Republicans: Don't go wobbly. Stand firm. This bill needs every one of your votes. This IS an important issue. Give the full House the opportunity to vote on it themselves and vote this out of committee and on to the House membership for their action. 

Other posts on this topic:
Teacher Tenure
We Dismissed a Teacher
Thanks for the memories--NOT

Monday, February 21, 2011

Twofer: Homeschooler Bayne wins Daytona 500

This is gonna just irritate the fire out of the educrats and the folks who want so badly to tear down the Nashville race track. I had no idea when we watched the amazing end of that race that the Brooks' home would be celebrating a twofer.

Trevor Bayne, winner of the Daytona 500 yesterday trained at the Nashville Speedway. He was also registered with a church-related school here in Tennessee for his junior and senior year. Racing not being one of the sports TSSAA can keep homeschoolers out of, he was free to hone his skills. Homeschooling, being an efficient education delivery method, allowed him the time.

Congrats Trevor!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Teacher tenure

Considering the upcoming legislation regarding teacher tenure it seems good to remind folks of two older posts regarding my experience as a school board member in the summer of 2006 with this issue.

The first post "We Dismissed a Teacher" provides some details on what we all had to endure trying to dismiss a tenured teacher.

It was an unpleasant task for everyone. It involved the lives of children, parents, co-workers, attorneys, union representatives, administrators, and eventually 7 members of the BOE and their staff. We heard nearly 30 39 hours of testimony that went long into the nights and reviewed a two inch stack of exhibits dating from October of 2002 involving two different principals in two different schools and several other education professionals that had interacted with this teacher.
The teacher was given extreme latitude in presenting their testimony. Often their comments went far afield and frequently included unsubstantiated charges and conclusions about the conduct of others and those were rarely challenged. I'm convinced that they had every opportunity to have their full say in their defense.

The second "Another Teacher Dismissal Hearing" provides more thoughts on the process, notes that my district seemed to have more than its share of these.
I suspect we need to do many more of these and I'm not sure any board can endure that many. It has been suggested that the law be amended to allow a separate board/committee to do this absolutely necessary work. Personally, I think the board needs to endure these. It's only when they get tired enough of this nonsense that they will find the backbone to hold the MNEA accountable for the quality of their advocacy of these members during negotiation times. It's that backbone that will demand that the director hire excellent teachers on the forefront.
Let me frame that comment by saying that during that time the BOE wholesale approved dozens of teachers for tenure. No information about their abilities or qualifications was offered. We were offered a list of names. They were approved without comment or question. No personnel records, citizen or parent or principal comments were provided.  Further, at that time, the BOE minutes weren't really public and so there was no opportunity for citizens to know who was on the list and thus have any opportunity to comment.

I firmly believe that we have excellent teachers. Those excellent teachers should be given a good bit of freedom to do what they do and should be paid well for their expertise and performance. I also firmly believe we have too much dead wood and any real professional organization would be encouraging the culling of that dead wood to increase the value of membership in that organization and thus the value of their members. The lives of these children are too valuable to continue to disallow real accountability via tenure.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thanks for the memories--NOT

I grew up in northern Wisconsin. I can vividly recall that in my small town, nearly every two years, we got more days off for teacher strikes than snow. Seriously. Lake effect snow had less of an impact on my attendance than teacher negotiations.

The teacher contracts in my hometown were for two years (smart) but expired on 12/31 (not so smart). That meant that every other Christmas season while preparations were being made for the Christmas programs and parties and we pushed to finish work before the Christmas break we'd also be given verbal propaganda that they trusted we'd take home to our parents. Parents where then expected to pressure the school board and city council on behalf of the teachers. It was a union town. Folks knew what they were supposed to do. It took me until the 9th grade before I figured out I was being used by teachers as a propaganda conduit to my parents. That's likely the beginning of my interest in politics.

So I look at all the comments, videos and news reports about what's going on in Madison and remember all too well what I could see outside my 7th grade Science class windows as teachers took turns picketing before the actual strike action was called, the news reports from the local paper and television stations and shake my head.  It's so sad to think how far they haven't come. It's OK to bankrupt a state and to demand that those hard financial cuts that must be made be made by someone else and not actually shared by all. All this from a group of people who want to be considered professionals but refuse to shed the shady shackles of union thug leadership and tactics. What sort of professional organization requires membership and the payment of tribute? Seems awfully 12th century feudal to me. And the children, well, they're children. Pawns caught between. That's just wrong and an abuse of the relationship they have with their authority figure teacher.

And to segue to our own recent legislation stripping the special rights of teachers here in Tennessee to have collective bargaining and increasing the years before tenure kicks in and assessing that tenure based on performance markers--I'm all for those. There's a lot more in those Educational Contracts than people realize. Read it sometime. Who gets a contract like that? They complained about Sarah Palin's bendy straws but these requirements are sacrosanct? Most of us are working without a contract at all, let alone a year long one, let alone tenure. 

And here's a tease of longer comments from a Tennessee teacher:

I’m a teacher in Tennessee. Our legislature is primed to pass similar legislature. Good for them. Time to give some of these incompetent teachers incentive to either do well or get out. Read the rest, scroll down.

Finally, a bit of that new rhetoric the left demanded after the shootings in Arizona.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 gets 'the Byrd'

Local Salemtown blogger Michael Byrd has a got a bone to pick with He's accusing them of stealing his content. There is a difference between aggregating teases to content and outright republishing without permission. Mike's fighting back and I'm thinking it's going to be effective.

I started to type into my browser window. Here's a screen shot of Firefox's suggested auto fill " Steals local content, refuses to rightfully attribute to local authors".

And then once I got to right there on their own front page is the accusation again " Steals Local Content, Refuses To Rightfully Attribute To Local Authors". Here's the screen shot:

The old saw about picking a fight with people who by ink by the barrel has been updated, Pixels are equally effective. Amplify this "Go get your own content".

Monday, February 07, 2011

Anonymous Misinformation

I was added to Davidson Conservative's distribution list some time ago and I have mostly ignored it because it’s just so over the top and obviously intended to tear down the Republican Party in our city that I find it worthless. If I hadn’t gotten a new computer and had to reprogram my MailWasher I might not have seen this at all. Criticism of the hard work the Davidson County Republican Party has been doing is all that “Davidson Conservative” seems to do. It’s always easier to tear down than build up and “Davidson Conservative” is clearly taking the easy road. But what’s different about this screed, and why I feel the need to respond, is that, in my opinion, it is specifically intended to slander someone in time for the Davidson County Republican Party’s upcoming convention. That’s lazy, low ball gutter politics and should not be allowed to stand unanswered. So, let me set the record straight for anyone who may have considered "Davidson Conservative" any sort of reliable source. 

I attended the “Running for Metro Council Workshop” hosted by the DCRP on Saturday morning. In fact, I was in charge of checking people in, collecting money and handing out lunches. I was there before the event began and I was there through the whole thing and was among the last to leave. So I write this to respond to “Davidson Conservative”, who is as wrong as they are anonymous. 

From the error filled email:
"Davidson County Republican Party Chairwoman Kathleen Starnes held a training workshop last weekend for those considering a run for Metro Council in 2011; except that most of who she trained were liberal Democrats!"
Let's start with the fact that Kathleen Starnes trained no one at this event. In fact Kathleen missed several chunks of this event because she was at the Bellevue Breakfast Club and so arrived late, had to run out for drinks and cups before lunch, and stepped out of the room several times to speak with people and work with the venue to ensure attendees had what they need. 

Additionally, this wasn't a Kathleen Starnes event. This event was hosted by the Davidson County Republican Party. Our goal was to provide people who are considering running for counsel with some basic information about what was in store for them. We knew that people from all political points of view would be in attendance. I know of no effort to screen those who RSVP'd to the event in order keep anyone out. The list I worked from and that was provided by Kathleen looked just like the one I had complied from E-mailed RSVP’s I had received. Even ousted former DCRP Vice-chair Matt Collins RSVP'd and attended. Clearly, being a bona fide Republican was not a requirement. 

Maybe “Davidson Conservative” is unaware of the fact that Council elections are non-partisan. It makes sense to me that their training sessions should be also. I would hope that every Republican would be happy to ensure that every candidate running to steer our city would understand the job requirements. I attended the Democrat hosted event held recently. Much of that event came across very much like the giving of marching orders to candidates. The DCRP event had none of that and a great deal of honest exchange of information that was truly useful to prospective candidates. It’s to our credit that even liberal Democrats were valued and given a place at the table, quite literally. We don’t agree with their way of running this city but to ignore their wisdom and experience is foolish and akin to cutting off our noses to spite our faces. 

Unless "Davidson Conservative" polled each attendee personally there is no way they can say with certainty that "most...were liberals". Yes, there were plenty of known Democrats on panels and in the audience. But, just like what should happen in the Council, we all played well with each other and respected the process.

One of the invited speakers was head of the SEIU, a government employee's union.  Another panel member invited to speak at this 'supposedly Republican' event was Freddie O'Connell, Mayor Karl Dean appointee and former co-host of the exceptionally progressive liberal Vanderbilt "LibeRadio" talk show:

Firstly, Doug Collier is the local SEIU head. I was told by Freda Player that he was out of town and unable to attend. The SEIU, does represent government employees. It also covers others. Freda Player of the SEIU was on a panel regarding working with the council as an outsider. Should our councilmanic candidates ignore this group representing Metro employees? I think not. Yes, Freddie O’Connell is liberal, but he’s also on the MTA Board and was part of a panel on issues the council will have to deal with in the upcoming term. Should our councilmanic candidates be unaware of the transportation issues in our city? I think not.

A council member attending the event observed that “there were more Democrats than Republicans there”.

Anonymous twofer here. Anonymous “Davidson Conservative” quotes an anonymous source.  When your argument is weak, make stuff up. Better yet, put it in bold font.

Since the day of the training session she has even publicly and openly published a campaign plan for Metro Council races on the DCRP website which anyone is free to read. Talk about providing aid and comfort to the other side!!! Why would you share your campaign strategy for all to see? 

And this is the paragraph that is most wrong. Kathleen had nothing to do with the availability of the “campaign plan” on the DCRP website. I don’t think Kathleen was even in the room when CM Carter Todd mentioned a great resource he recommended. It seemed clear to me that the attendees were very interested in this resource since he praised it so highly. I asked the CM where it could be obtained. He said he had it and I offered, without Kathleen’s knowledge or permission, that if he sent it to me I’d upload it to the DCRP website and make it available to the attendees. He did provide it. I uploaded it as promised. I tweeted its availability. So, do we have this straight? This uploading was my doing and my ‘fault’ and not Kathleen’s in any way, shape or form. 

Now that we’re past the false accusation part it’s actually pretty funny. Had the anonymous arbiter of all things conservative done a bit of  homework, known our city, done a quick Google search, they would never had made the mistake of accusing anyone of providing ‘aid and comfort’ to Democrats. The document originated from a fairly well known Nashville Democrat. It’s certainly not new to them, no secret plan to them, no aid and comfort to them. In fact, if anyone should be peeved, it should be the Democrats.

But this is no surprise since Republican Chairwoman Kathleen Starnes was a former liberal Democrat herself before she decided to conveniently become a Republican a few years ago. One has to wonder if she still shares the same values of her former Party? Was her switch to the Republican Party disingenuous? Why is she still so cozy with the liberal Democrats? Why is she using Republican Party funds to train Democrats? Is she a Democrat plant who has successfully infiltrated the Republican Party? The answer to these questions are starting to become self-evident.

Every time I read an accusation like this I think “What a fool.” This is Nashville. Democrats are a dime a dozen around here. If we didn’t have former Democrat Party members we wouldn’t have very many Republicans at all. It’s part of the goal of the Republican Party to convert LOTS of Democrats to Republicanism. Is “Davidson Conservative” completely unaware of the fact that Ronald Reagan was also a former Democrat? Is he unaware of Jesus’ quote about a house being divided? Did "Davidson Conservative" only decide this was the end of their unfair and false diatribe because they ran out of question marks?

If the anonymous self-appointed defender of conservatism in Nashville named "Davidson Conservative" is as accurate about everything else they do, they, and their followers, are in serious trouble.  Oh wait, they did get one thing right: 

The event took place Saturday the 5th of February at the Green Hills Hampton Inn.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fairgrounds failure

Again, Metro 3 is failing to provide citizens with a view of what their government is doing. According to tweeted reports there are some 1,000 citizens downtown this evening to communicate with the representatives about the Metro fairgrounds and racetrack. Let's hope there's a very good explanation for this failure.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Problem passer-on-er

Only in the alternative universe that is the Tennessean's can they, with a straight face and faux professionalism, tout their man Gov. Phil Bredesen's ability to problem solve and then headline the fact that the problem isn't actually solved after eight years.  What happened to results being the litmus test? He, having made in fortune in health care, was sold as being THE man who would solve this problem for us. Yet, eight years later it remains.

It remains because Goo Goo's will not acknowledge that government is not the best entity to do charity work or oversee the medical care of citizens generally. "Keep your hands off my body" only applies to abortion not to insurance portability or end of life decisions.