tennessee education association

New TNJ edition alert: Lee’s carrot-and-stick approach to teachers, blood in the Nashville water

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Governor’s bid to raise teacher pay hike bill would also ban dues collection.

— Blood in the water: More punitive measures follow law halving the size of Nashville council.

— No harm, no foul? Judges mull motions for summary judgment in re-districting challenge.

Also: Dwight Tarwater’s state Supreme Court nomination confirmed, residency requirement questions cloud Memphis mayor’s race, new Knox County GOP chair pledges “return to normalcy,” and is there an emoji for succession jockeying for the Senate speakership?

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Larry Arnn’s ‘dumbest’ teachers remark gets weaponized in state House race

The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, is sending out mailers in a key state House primary featuring the likeness of Larry Arnn, the Hillsdale College president who recently said some unkind things about teachers and the colleges that educate them.

Arnn, whose school has designed a charter school curriculum backed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, said at recent event in Franklin that teachers “are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.” Lee, who sat alongside Arnn at the closed-door meeting, didn’t say anything about the comments at the time. Lee has since insisted he supports public school teachers but refused to repudiate Arnn’s remarks.

The mailer is in support of Bob Ravener, a retired Navy submarine officers who is running against trial lawyer — and school choice supporter — Gino Bulso in the Republican primary in District 61 in northern Williamson County. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin) who famously declared during his first election campaign in 2018 that he was opposed to school vouchers only to vote for a bill creating the private school tuition subsidies the following year.

Here’s the other side of the TEA mailer backing Ravener:

Voucher supporters’ poll indicates wide backing for school choice

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

School voucher supporters are out with some new national polling showing wide support for school choice. Opponents have long argued the polling questions are loaded to turn out the most favorable results.

The polling comes as a faction of state Republicans take their latest run at ending automatic paycheck deductions to pay union dues to the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union. Similar efforts have foundered in committee and on the Senate floor in prior years.

The TEA’s political action committee is one of the most generous donors to state lawmakers of both parties.

Here’s the release from the American Federation for Children:

Parents and families have been on a rollercoaster when it comes to K-12 education in the time of COVID-19. A new poll from Real Clear Opinion Research finds overall support for school choice is increasing as parents need more options than ever.

Major findings:

— 71% of voters back school choice. This is the highest level of support ever recorded from major AFC national polling with a sample size above 800 voters.

— 65% support parents having access to a portion of per-pupil funding to use for home, virtual, or private education if public schools don’t reopen full-time for in-person classes.

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation of Children:

“The continued very strong support among voters for school choice and spending flexibility for parents of school-aged children is a clear message for policymakers. Parents and families are demanding greater choice in K-12 education and they expect policymakers to put the needs of students ahead of the special interests who are bound and determined to protect the status quo.

“The need for education freedom is at an all-time high and it’s reaffirming to see many state policymakers stepping up and supporting school choice across the country. Thirty-two states have introduced 36 bills to create or expand educational choice and we urge policymakers in these states to get these bills over the finish line on behalf of families and students.”

Full Details:

Question: School Choice

School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their child’s needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of school choice?


All: 71%

Race & Ethnicity:

White: 73%
Black: 66%
Hispanic: 68%
Asian: 66%

Party ID:

Democrat: 69%
Republican: 75%

Question: Funding students vs. funding systems

On average, American taxpayers spend $15,424 per student nationwide on K-12 public education. Would you support or oppose giving parents a portion of those funds to use for home, virtual, or private education if public schools do not reopen full-time for in-person classes?


All: 65%

Race & Ethnicity:

White: 65%
Black: 63%
Hispanic: 60%
Asian: 69%

Party ID:

Democrat: 66%
Republican: 67%

Question: Faith in teachers’ unions

In many states, teachers’ unions have advocated to keep public schools closed and continue virtual learning instead of reopening school buildings. Meanwhile, 92% of private Catholic schools were operating with in-person learning in September. Does this make you feel more or less favorable towards teachers’ unions that oppose re-opening?

More Favorable: 36%

Less Favorable: 47%

Date: March 12-17, 2021
+/- 2.44%

More school choice polling can be found at www.SchoolChoicePolling.com

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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