teachers

Teachers’ union warns new COVID-19 liability protection could backfire on schools

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, says the new law enacted to provide legal protections to businesses and schools may have the opposite effect.

TEA President Beth Brown said in a release that the new law’s standards of gross negligence or willful misconduct could make schools liable if they buck federal guidelines and designate educators to be “essential workers.”  

 “TEA believes the few school districts designating educators as essential to avoid isolation protocols for staff directly exposed to a positive COVID case could meet the definition the ‘gross negligence’ and ‘willful misconduct’ outlined in the new liability law,” Brown said in a release. “CDC guidance on isolation after exposure limits spread and protects communities. Disregarding this guidance may have liability repercussions as well as unnecessarily jeopardize the health of students and educators and increase the likelihood of school closures and disrupted instruction.”

The full release follows.

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TEA endorses Harwell for GOP gubernatorial nomination, Fitzhugh for Democratic nomination

Press release from Tennessee Education Association

The Tennessee Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education (TEA-FCPE) has endorsed Beth Harwell in the Republican Primary for Governor, and Craig Fitzhugh in the Democratic Primary for Governor. TEA-FCPE is the political action committee of TEA, the state’s largest professional association.

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House committee kills bill authorizing teachers to carry guns; ‘School Safety Act’ advances

A  bill authorizing teachers to carry guns in classrooms was voted down in a House committee Tuesday after an outpouring of opposition following earlier approval in a subcommittee. Only four members of the 13-member House Education and Planning Committee had themselves recorded as voting in favor of the bill sponsored by Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) as it was defeated on a voice vote.

On the other hand, the “School Safety Act of 2018,” which would to provide more funding to hire off-duty law enforcement officers to patrol schools (HB2129, as amended) has won approval in committees of both the House and Senate. The measure, introduced originally as a caption bill, is sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Gray) and Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City).

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Bill to arm TN teachers advances; sponsor says Haslam school safety plan not enough

A controversial bill that would let designated Tennessee educators go armed in schools cleared another House hurdle Tuesday, despite concerns raised by law enforcement officials and others, reports the Times Free Press.

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UT puts cap on salaries paid administrators who shift to teaching

The University of Tennessee is putting new limits on “retreat salaries,” payments to former administrators when they take a teaching job after retirement, reports the News Sentinel.

Under the old policy, former administrators could be paid 75 percent of their previous salary after moving to faculty positions – in some cases far more than any other professor in an academic department. Under the new policy, former administrators will be limited to a maximum of 125 percent of salary paid to top professor in a department  — except in special cases.

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McQueen seeks $73 million increase in state education budget, not counting anticipated teacher pay raise

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen wants a third consecutive annual teacher pay raise included in the state budget next year for and new funding to help local school districts pay for Tennessee’s required but unfunded intervention program aimed at keeping struggling students from falling through the cracks, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

McQueen presented her wish list to the governor during budget hearings Tuesday at the State Capitol.

Tennessee is projecting a slowdown in the growth of tax revenue next fiscal year — about $350 million compared to $1 billion this year — but Haslam says that investing in teacher pay continues to be a priority of his two-term administration.

“We want to continue to fund teacher salaries the best we can,” he said following Tuesday’s budget presentations.

McQueen offered up $73 million in specific requests, the bulk of which would cover growth and inflationary costs associated with the state’s funding formula known as the Basic Education Program, or BEP.  The list also includes $10 million for school improvement grants for “priority schools” in the state’s bottom 5 percent, another $6 million to help charter schools pay for facilities for a second year in a row, and almost $4.5 million for the state’s reading initiative in its third year.

But she did not attach dollar amounts for her big-ticket requests like teacher pay and the unfunded program known as Response to Instruction and Intervention, or RTI. She told reporters later that her department will pound out those important details with Haslam’s administration during the months ahead before the governor presents his final spending proposal to lawmakers in February.

McQueen to DeVos: Fed education budget cuts will hurt ‘some of your biggest supporters’

In letters to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is opposing the proposed elimination of a federal program for teacher training and retention that sent $38 million to Tennessee last year, reports The Tennessean.

McQueen wrote two letters – the first in June, saying the budget cut would hurt students in public schools across the state, especially in rural areas where President Donald Trump had strong support in the 2016 election. A second letter sent Friday says 42,000 students in private schools would be hurt, too, by the elimination of Title II, part A funds in the upcoming federal budget. DeVos has been an active supporter of charter schools and school voucher programs.

She emphasized her point in an interview Friday with the USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee.

“Our tone here is: We want to make sure you understand, this is going to be very impactful for our rural counties in ways that maybe you haven’t thought through,” McQueen said. “We are at a point where these decisions will probably impact some of your biggest supporters.”

…The state recieved $38 million in Title II funds from the federal government in 2016-17, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. That money also goes to the recruitment and retention of educators.

DeVos’ office responded (to the first letter) by saying that states had not used those funds well in the past, McQueen said.

“We would disagree with that because in Tennessee we don’t believe we have misused that by any stretch of the imagination,” McQueen said in the interview.

Faculty claims ‘hostility, intimidation and retaliation’ at Nashville State Community College

Start of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Nashville State Community College maintains such an oppressive climate for its faculty members that it sought to monitor and interfere with efforts to ask them about it, according to a report commissioned by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Nashville State’s executives sought to surreptitiously identify which faculty members were being confidentially interviewed by investigators from Middle Tennessee State University. Several administrators, including George H. Van Allen, the college’s president, improperly sought to get access to — and interfere in the distribution of — an online survey intended solely for faculty members, the investigators’ report says.

A large share of the college’s faculty members complained of “hostility, intimidation, and retaliation” by the college’s executive leaders, and spoke of working in an atmosphere where “trust is low and fear is high,” the report says. Most, it adds, “view the trend for this negative climate as continuing to spiral downward.”

In an interview with The Tennessean President Van Allen defended his record and described his critics as a “strong minority” of faculty members. He said he had tried to get access to the survey because he was concerned about its security.

Note: For more, see the extensive Tennessean story, HERE.

Teaching of TN history faces change — for better or worse?

In an op-ed piece appearing in the News-Sentinel, Bill Carey writes that a lot of Tennessee history being taught in the state’s schools will be ignored under new social studies standards recommended by a study committee advising the State Board of Education. Cary was a member of the committee who dissented from the majority report and is the founder of Tennessee History for Kids.

Jason Roach, a Hawkins County school principal who chaired the committee, has an op-ed piece in the Commercial Appeal voicing support for the majority recommendations.

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TEA polling: Most Tennesseans don’t want school vouchers

News release from Tennessee Education Association

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennesseans strongly reject private school vouchers, according to the largest and most comprehensive polling data on the subject. TEA extensively surveyed rural, urban and suburban voters in all three Grand Divisions of the state, with an oversample of highly-likely Republican primary voters. The polls were conducted May through October of 2016.
Of the 6,510 respondents, 59.5 percent rejected private school vouchers, 29 percent approved. The two-to-one negative opinion was consistent across geographic and demographic groups. The polling margin of error is +/- 4 percent.
“I’ve rarely seen such a strong negative opinion. It is clear Tennesseans do not like or want school vouchers,” said Jim Wrye, TEA Government Relations manager. “We are a conservative state that values our local traditions and institutions. Vouchers are a radical idea that attack and weaken the foundation of our communities — our public schools.”

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