Search Results for: stand for children

Nashville, Memphis school districts threaten to sue over vouchers

The school districts covering Nashville and Memphis are threatening to sue the state if the General Assembly passes legislation to enact an expanded school voucher program affecting only their students. The so-called Education Savings Account bill passed both the House and Senate last week, but in competing forms.

Here’s the full release from Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools:

State’s 2 Largest School Districts Oppose Education Savings Account Legislation as Unconstitutional

The Education Savings Account (ESA) legislation violates Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution because it is arbitrarily limited to only a portion of the state when the Constitution requires any Act of the General Assembly to apply statewide unless approved by a local legislative body or through a local referendum.

The language, in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, reflects an arbitrary application to Shelby County Schools (SCS) and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MPNS), as there are school districts such as Madison and Fayette county with larger or nearly the same percentages of schools performing in the bottom 10 percent. The legislation also applies to only certain districts with priority schools from the state’s 2015 priority school list even though there is a more current list from 2018 that includes schools in Campbell, Fayette, Madison and Maury counties. These districts are arbitrarily left out of the legislation.

Should this legislation be signed into law, an immediate constitutional challenge is likely to ensure equal protection under the law. Shelby County is no stranger to asserting and prevailing on such constitutional challenges as reflected in the November 27, 2012 decision in the case of Board of Education of Shelby County Tennessee et al v. Memphis City Board of Education by federal Judge Hardy Mays which rendered a similar bill void that was local in effect.

“If the Governor and Legislature are determined to pass a general law that would apply arbitrarily only to us or a limited number of school systems, we will be sure to exhaust all of our legal options,” said SCS Superintendent, Dr. Joris M. Ray.

“No matter what you call them, vouchers are a bad idea. They are not what we need for public schools. We owe it to this generation of students — and to all of those who follow them – to fight for a system that is fairly funded,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, the MNPS Interim Director.

If the ESA bill becomes law, Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools stand prepared to evaluate and pursue all legal remedies that ensure that the constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law remain intact for the children and families of our districts and state.

 

Never assume? Lee loses key Chattanooga Republican on voucher bill

Legislative leaders kick off the joint convention to inaugurate Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. From left at podium are House Majority Leader William Lamberth, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, and House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration needs six votes to get its school voucher bill out of the Senate Finance Committee. Until recently, outspoken Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) was believed to be among those expected to vote to advance the measure. Not so, reports Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“I’d carried every voucher bill for the past six years,” Gardenhire told the paper. “But this was one I could not go along with.”

(Full disclosure: The print edition of The Tennessee Journal was among those buying into the assumption that Gardenhire would be among the bill’s supporters.)

Gardenhire has long fought to make in-state tuition rates available to children brought to the country illegally. A provision of the voucher bill aimed to screen the immigration status of K-12 students is a major reason for Gardenhire’s opposition.

“As you know, I’ve been a big proponent of making sure they get an education they’re supposed to get,” said Gardenhire. “And [Lee] and I have a fundamental disagreement on that.”

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Here’s what is in the Senate version of the voucher bill

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a Philips event in Nashville on April 2, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Senate version of Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher proposal would double the number of students who could participate in the Education Savings Account program to 30,000.

The measure scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday would also dial back the testing requirements for students going to private school.

Instead of requiring the same TCAP test for math and English (but not science or social studies) that is administered to public school students, private schools could give their students a “nationally norm-referenced test” approved by the state Education Department. Examples of those standardized tests include the ACT and PARCC. That’s a provision likely to further outrage public school teachers who have long complained about the state-specific testing regimen.

Just as in the House bill, the program would be capped at 5,000 students in the first year, followed by increments of 2,500 in the next four years. But while the lower chamber’s bill envisions limiting the pilot program at 15,000, the Senate bill would continue to allow the program to grow by 2,500 students each ensuing year until it reaches an enrollment of 30,000.

Homeschooling appears to make a comeback in the Senate bill after being excised from the House version.

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Gov. Lee talks education savings accounts before first bill hearing

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters on March 19, 2019, about his proposal to introduce an education savings account program in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee spoke to reporters at the Cordell Hull building just minutes before his bill seeking to introduce education savings accounts, or ESAs, in Tennessee. (UPDATE: The bill cleared the subcommittee on a voice vote.) Here’s a transcript of what Lee had to say:

Lee: Homeschooling parents are very encouraged by the ESA bill. As more folks understand my commitment to strengthening public schools and providing choice at the same time, I think it’s something that’s really going to help Tennessee. I’m really excited about it.

Q: Which homeschoolers will be eligible?

Lee: If a family is in the district that qualifies, and they are currently in a public school, then they would qualify for an ESA.

Q: Any concerns about possibility of fraud?

Lee: There’s a strong accountability component to this in that money can only be used for approved purchases and approved vendors, so that we can be certain that the money that goes with the child will go for educational expenses only.

Q: The bill doesn’t require attendance in failing school. One could attend a fairly good public school and still qualify. What’s the rationale?

Lee: The goal is for children who are in a district that have failing schools. So, it’s targeted at kids in failing schools. Most kids that are not in failing schools will stay in their public schools. Data has shown that. Our public schools across Tennessee are high quality public schools for the most part. That’s why we’re investing so heavily in them. That’s why I believe in public schools. And I think the children that are in failing schools should have an opportunity to have access. And this is what that is targeted at.

Q: Embattled Rep. David Byrd could be key to the fate of this bill. Will pressure be brought to bear to influence his vote?

Lee: I am so trusting that representatives and legislators will vote on what they think is best for Tennesseans. That’s what I’m asking them to do, is to consider these children that I’m hopeful will have a choice as a result of this besides the choice of a failing school. And I trust that’s going to happen.

Read Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Governor Bill Lee’s first State of the State address, as prepared for delivery on Monday evening:

Lieutenant Governor McNally, Speaker Casada, Speaker Pro Tem Haile, Speaker Pro Tem Dunn, Members of the 111th General Assembly, Justices, Constitutional Officers, friends, guests, fellow Tennesseans:

Tennessee’s voters and its constitution have given me the responsibility of delivering this address evaluating where we are as a state and recommending action to make us even better.

I am grateful for this opportunity to serve, and it is my high honor to be here tonight. There’s a scripture that encourages us to consider others as more important than ourselves.

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Full text of Gov. Bill Lee’s inaugural address

Bill Lee takes the oath of office as Tennessee’s 50th governor on Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee’s inaugural speech, as prepared for delivery:

“In 1796, a man and his young family began their homestead just up the way on the banks of the Cumberland River. That was the same year the great state of Tennessee was formed. 223 years and 50 governors later, we stand here on the banks of the Cumberland, celebrating our history and anticipating our future.

I am honored to stand before you today.

Thank you for that warm introduction Governor McNally. Thanks to you, to Speaker Casada and all the Members of the General Assembly. I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.

To the former governors, thank you for being here as well. It’s an honor to have you.

I would also like to thank our Constitutional Officers, the Justices of the Supreme Court, Members of Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation and all of my fellow Tennesseans who have joined us here in War Memorial Auditorium, and those watching at home. Thank you for sharing in this special moment.

I would not be here today without God’s gift to me, my wife Maria.

Throughout the past two years of campaigning, Maria has been constantly at my side. She has been steadfastly committed to me and in this process has become committed to the people of Tennessee. She will make a remarkable First Lady. Maria, thank you.

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First lady Crissy Haslam awarded medallion from national secretaries of state

First lady Crissy Haslam attends a portrait unveiling for Gov. Bill Haslam on Dec. 17, 2018, in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A release from Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett on Monday presented First Lady Crissy Haslam with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Medallion Award for her work to support the Tennessee State Library and Archives and programs to increase early childhood literacy.

“Crissy Haslam has dedicated her time as Tennessee’s first lady to promoting the love of reading to children and families across the state,” Hargett said. “By creating and maintaining a variety of programs, she has continued to engage parents and children with high quality family reading selections, elevate the love of reading, and connect readers with their public libraries.”
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Vanderbilt poll finds strong support for Gov.-elect Lee

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee speaks at a rally in Franklin on Oct. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A new poll by Vanderbilt University finds Republican Gov.-elect Bill Lee coming into office with support nearly rivaling that of outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam.

Here’s the release from Vanderbilt:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Governor-elect Bill Lee will enter office with a strong favorability rating of 57 percent, with only 22 percent of registered voters holding an unfavorable view, according to the latest Vanderbilt University Poll. The findings also suggest Lee will also find support for some of his initiatives, including expanding vocational training in the state. Meanwhile, health care has surpassed the economy and education for the first time in the poll’s history as Tennesseans’ chief priority for state government.

“Overall, we see support for an agenda that could work for our incoming governor,” said John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll. “Education and the economy are strong priorities, as well as immigration and infrastructure.”

“The one worry Bill Lee must deal with is health care, which has risen in importance to Tennesseans,” said poll co-director Josh Clinton, Abby and Jon Winkelried Professor of Political Science. “Although the two are related, health care now takes precedence above the economy to voters here.”

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Dean in new ad calls Lee’s positions ‘extreme’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean has a new ad out that labels Republican Bill Lee’s views as ‘extreme’ on guns, vouchers, and Medicaid expansion.

Here’s the release from the Dean campaign:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean will start airing a TV ad Saturday comparing his common-sense vision of a compassionate, forward-looking Tennessee with opponent Bill Lee’s extreme, ideological policies.
Titled “Would You Want,” the ad helps voters understand the stark choice they face in the Nov. 6 election for governor, with early voting now underway through Nov. 1.
“Would you want a governor who would give public school funds to private schools? Or arm teachers and allow guns in classrooms? Or deny healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans and let our tax dollars fund healthcare in other states?” Dean says, speaking directly to the camera throughout the 30-second spot.
“I’m Karl Dean, and that’s the choice in this election. Bill Lee believes all of that; I don’t. I’m not the flashiest guy running, but we don’t need an extreme governor who would take us backward. Let’s keep Tennessee moving forward.”

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UT President DiPietro sets retirement date

A release from the University of Tennessee:

KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro announced today that he will retire Feb. 14, 2019. 

He will step down from active service Nov. 21 to use his remaining vacation time.

DiPietro, UT’s 25th president, has led the University of Tennessee system since January 2011. He serves as the chief executive officer of UT and its campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin, the Health Science Center in Memphis and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and the Institute of Public Service.

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