Saturday, January 25, 2014

TN will not share student data with Federal Gov as part of Common Core

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has formally pledged that personal student information will not be shared with the Federal government as part of the State's participation in Common Core.  He joined 33 other state school commissioners in signing a letter to U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to that effect. 

The Common Core State Standards  is a joint effort led by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop a common core of K-12 standards in English language arts and Mathematics and was developed by education experts from 45 states. The 45 states, the District of Columbia (D.C.), and 2 territories and Department of Defense Education Activity have formally adopted the set of core standards for kindergarten through high school in English language arts, mathematics, and grades 6-12 literacy in science, history/social studies, and technical subjects. 

Recently their has been push back against Common Core and some states have backtracked on their commitment. Some of the criticism of Common Core is that it does not raise the bar on what a child is expected to learn.  While that may be true in some states with high education standards, it is not true in those states with a poor level of education achievement. In any event, the Common Core standards are a measure of a  minimum level of education attainment; not a cap. Nothing would prevent a State from having standards higher than Common Core.  Tennessee has traditionally ranked near the bottom in education and while we have shown recent improvement, meeting Common Core standards would elevate education in Tennessee.

Other criticism of  Common Core is that some of the reading selections in the curriculum are offensive. There is no Common Core curriculum. States would still select their own text books and define the curriculum.  There is no mandated master reading list.

I have generally supported Common Core. With the United States falling behind many of the advanced countries of the world and even falling behind many third world counties, I do not think the status quo is acceptable. We must do something to improve the quality of American education to maintain our standing in the world. Also, America is a very mobile country. In my view, when an "A" student in Tennessee moves to another state he should not now be a "D" student.  There should be some expectation that a student in the 5th grade in one state has most of the same skills and knowledge as a 5th grader in another state.

One of the criticism which I think has merit is the privacy concern.  I do not want the federal government to have the academic record of every child in America. This letter from 34 of the state commissioners  of education addresses the privacy issue.  This is encouraging and reassuring. 

There are several bills in the state legislature that addresses the privacy issue as it relates to Common Core. Senate Education Committee chair Dolores Gresham  has introduced a bill that would restrict the state from releasing a student's academic data to the federal government. There are also a couple other bills and resolutions introduced that address the issue.  The state legislature should go ahead and pass a bill that puts into state law the position stated by our Commissioner of Education.  This would even give more more comfort and assurances that student privacy will not be compromised by Common Core. I know I would be more comfortable with Common Core if such a bill passes.

Below is the text of the letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from the 34 state commissioners of education.

January 23, 2014

The Honorable Arne Duncan
United States Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20202

Secretary Duncan:

As chief state school officers in states participating in the two common assessment consortia, we appreciate your continued leadership and collaboration with states as we work to raise our standards, improve our assessments, and strengthen our accountability systems.

Our states have been collaborating for the last three years to design and develop next generation, computer-based assessment systems that will give students, parents and educators better information about children’s progress toward preparation for college and careers. This work is critically important, and we are committed to the success of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Over the last several months, some concerns have been raised about whether states’ transition to the consortia assessments will create new requirements for states to provide student information to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) or any agency of the federal government.

We are writing today to confirm that the consortia will not share any personally identifiable information about K–12 students with USED or any federal agency. Our states have not submitted student-level assessment data in the past; the transition to the new assessments should not cause anyone to worry that federal reporting requirements will change when, in fact, the federal government is prohibited from establishing a student-level database that would contain assessment data for every student. As we have historically done, our states will continue to provide USED with school-level data from our state assessments as required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended in 2002. Our states and local education agencies will continue to retain control over student assessment data and will continue to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations with regard to the protection of student privacy.

We understand that it has long been USED’s practice not to require states to provide information from assessments about individual K-12 students. We are confirming that our states will not provide such information to USED and that everything we have said here is consistent with our understanding of the cooperative agreement between the consortia and USED.

Thank you for your consideration and your continued commitment to our states success.


(Following is the signature and title of 34 state education commissioners.)
For more on this development follow this link and this link

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Former top aide to US Sen. Alexander, facing child pornography charges, hangs himself in Md.

Former top aide to US Sen. Alexander, facing child pornography charges, hangs himself in Md.

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TSU President says if you don't like Obama, you're a racist.

The essence of remarks made by TSU's President Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover at an NAACP event in Dickson Monday night was that if you don't like President Obama, it must be because you are a recist.

She said the "government is selfish" and  the "electorate is cruel" and that the electorate, "has shown its downright disregard, disrespect and absolute disdain for our president, and has made his skin color the No. 1 judging criteria."

Senator Jim Summerfied was in the audience, was displeased by the comment and got up and walked out. He says he does not like being called a racist and wants Glover to be required to undergo diversity training. Read more about it here, here, and here.

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Tennessee does not rank so well.

With Tennessee and especially Nashville ranking high on many list these days, it is easy to think we have arrived. I do think we have shown great improvement and are heading in the right direction but we should not let it go to our head.  Politico recently ranked the fifty states, compiling and averaging  14 different state rankings from reputable sources such as the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI, and on important factors such as high school graduation rates, per capita income, life expectancy, infant mortality, and crime rate.

Tennessee's overall ranking was a dismal 48. Thank God for Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. At the top of the list was at number 1, 2 and 3 were New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Vermont. New York ranks 28, California 31, and Texas ranks 36. To see the complete ranking and the 14 individual rankings used to compile the composite ranking, follow this link.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

School Board Member Amy Frogge is hosting a fund raiser for Mary Mancini.

In addition to Amy Frogge, other host of the fundraising event include attorney Kathryn Barnett,  wife of Will Cheek; Gary Bynum  who is the gay partner of former Councilman Keith Durbine;
Margaret Holleman, wife of Jason Holleman who recently withdrew from race for the same office sought by Mary Mancini; and Tom Negri, Director of the Metro Human Relations Commission. To see the full list of host for this event follow this link.

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Thoughts on Nashville's PreK plan

Reposted from TN Edu-Independent. Posted: 17 Jan 2014
There were some more specifics released this past Tuesday night about the MNPS PreK plan for Nashville.

As I've referenced before, I think we need to do much better as a city in providing more robust early childhood development and learning for every child, but I'm not sure if "universal" PreK delivered by the school district is the way to go.

I want to preface all my comments by saying that I genuinely respect the internal MNPS leadership and staff working on the MNPS PreK project. They are driven for the right reasons and sharp, and I trust they will study effective models and ensure that the programming details of the MNPS PreK project will be based on evidence supported best practices. I worry that for some, this PreK project is a push is for political reasons. Whatever details of the model emerge, it needs to be based on best practices and meeting the need that exists in the city, creating the greatest chance of success for young students (decisions not made for political reasons).

I have some thoughts, some as constructive feedback, on thinking through the details of how expanding MNPS PreK would work, based on the plan presented to the Board:
  • I like the ambition. I like the talk about becoming a national model of excellence. There's no reason why not, and I like that expectations are high. I want that loft expectation to permeate every part of this program, so that people are motivated to deliver the best program for young 4 year olds. That starts with the leaders of the program and those designing it committing to being the best in the country - which is great.

  • I like the dedicated Center approach. I believe this will help on the quality front, which is the most important aspect of all this. This is somewhat following San Antonio's plan.  PreK classrooms within elementary schools won't yield as much high quality in my opinion, because the focus is on elementary education, K-5. That building principal is not often skilled in high quality ECE (early childhood education) or know how to lead high quality professional development for ECE teachers. In a dedicated Center, it's all ECE, all the time.

  • Will they fill up all the spots?  I worry about the locations of the two proposed centers. The Board presentation cited "high demand" for PreK, citing a large wait list, that demand was higher than supply. Big kudos to MNPS for responding to demonstrated parent demand that is outstripping supply (I wish they would adopt the same thinking with other school types where there is clear parental demand - other school choice options, including those that start with a "c" and ends with "harters").  
I believe the demand/supply imbalance is true on aggregate across the county, but I'd like to see details on where families on the wait list live exactly in Davidson County. North and East Nashville, where the two proposed dedicated centers are to be located, already have a number of early childhood providers.

I mapped the Head Start Centers, see the green icons (there are 3 partner Head Start sites, others are Head Start direct run). The red "P" marker are the proposed PreK center locations.  This map does not include places like Fannie Battle, Martha O'Bryan, and McNeilly Center's own early childhood classrooms (all located in East or North Nashville). Nor does it include the Ashland City Head Start center, which is outside of Davidson County, but by distance is not that far from Bordeaux Elementary's location.

My point is that there is a lot of existing capacity in North and East Nashville for publicly provided ECE (early childhood education), and I worry that adding two more dedicated PreK centers will cause an oversupply of ECE in this part of the county (if there isn't already). The bulk of demand is likely coming from the southeast part of the county.

It would not be feasible to bus PreK 4 year old students from Antioch every day to the Bordeaux or Ross Centers, so being able to serve demand from these areas at the Bordeaux & Ross centers via transportation doesn't seem likely.

MNPS data shows that in total numbers, the Bordeaux/Cumberland elementary zone areas are not projected to enroll that many students in Kindergarten over the next 5 years. I think PreK elgible numbers would actually be less than the projected K numbers on this chart.  If you sum these two zones, it's still well short of the planned capacity of the Bordeaux ECE center (while considering all the other spots at Head Start, private providers, and non profit providers like McNeilly, Fannie Battle, etc).
  • I wish the research presented for the PreK project was a little more balanced in its presentation. i.e. no contrary evidence of PreK was presented.  For example, the PreK presentation to the Board made a claim that PreK will "Increase student success beyond Pre-K in academic and social-emotional outcomes" (citing a Vanderbilt PreK study). The same Vanderbilt PreK study has published a subsequent report that shows the academic gains fade out. Another national study of Head Start finds that academic gains fade in the early elementary years.

    There was also the claim that long term benefits accrue to children who will be in the PreK program, citing the Perry Preschool and Chicago Longitudinal Study (this is largely where the return on investment messaging comes from). Both of these were small programs, different in design and practice, and spent far more per child than the proposed MNPS PreK program will.  For example, the Perry Preschool intervention was actually half day, a 6:1 teacher/pupil ratio, and involved consistent home visits, and cost a lot per student, among other different details.

    I don't know if all of the MNPS PreK details for the proposed plan are fully worked out, but the current practice for MNPS  PreK students is that they attend school like it's K-12 school. There aren't regular home visits by the PreK teachers, classes for parents on early childhood brain development, nutrition, it's fiscally unsustainable to do a 6:1 teacher/pupil ratio, etc.

    The Chicago program served PreK to 3rd graders (why couldn't we also do that?) and was proactive with involving parents.

    I get apprehensive when different historical projects and interventions are held up as "proof" as what we should do in the future, yet what we are proposing to do in the future doesn't involve key components of that historical intervention model.

  • I did not see any proposed plan for program evaluation (it may be part of the plan and I missed it).  How will we know this particular MNPS Center model, once all the details are set, is working?  What evaluation of the program is planned to gauge if it's a good use of scarce public funds or not? PreK Centers won't take TCAP...they'll get ratings from the TN Dept of Education, but tracking program outcomes in a robust way will help ensure quality.  We need goals and metrics that are meaningful (national model of excellence needs some of the nation's most ambitious goals), and we need to be able to measure progress against those goals.

    MNPS might want to study adopting the CLASS Teacher-Child Observation rubric as one way to gauge quality in its Centers. Head Start is starting to adopt this tool nationally, and it was developed at the University of Virginia by early childhood experts. It isn't a standardized test approach to monitor student progress, but seeks to look at child learning and development outcomes based on the teacher/child interaction.  For far too many ECE programs, we judge "quality" based on the inputs that go into a program, and don't examine actual outcomes for children (this is what currently happens with the TN 3 star rating system for child care centers).
As plan details continue to be refined and finalized, I hope that the leaders of this plan continue to focus on implementing evidence based practices while being mindful of parent demand and where it exists in the county to ensure that any MNPS PreK offered consists of high quality education and development programming. 

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Caffeinated Conservatives to meet Jan. 25th

From Stephen Clements

 Hi everybody,
Now that you've recovered from wonderful holidays and hacking coughs, it's time to get back to our political junkie support group meetings, er, our coffee socials!
To start off the new year right, come talk with Barry Donegan, Liberty activist, former Director at Large of the Davidson County Republican Party, and fitness guru, and find out why you should get a tattoo of Ron Paul, the impact the Libertarian movement is having on electoral politics, and how to keep that resolution to lose weight and get washboard abs!
WHEN: Saturday January 25th, from 12 PM - 2 PM
WHERE: Bagelface Bakery (700 Main Street, East Nashville)
WHAT: Barry Donegan, Libertarian activist and campaign operator
WHO: YOU, bring a friend, your appetite, and all the questions and comments you want to batter a Libertarian with.

Stephen Clements
Caffeinated Conservatives

Save the date! In addition to our February coffee social, we are having an evening cocktail social with nationally-syndicated talk radio host Phil Valentine, at The Cave in downtown Nashville, on February 22nd from 5 PM - 8 PM! The movie is free, and it is an all-ages show. Click the link below to RSVP.

For more information on Bagelface Bakery, who love seeing us pack their shop every month:

On Facebook? Come Like the Caffeinated Conservatives page:

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Family Action Council's 2014 Legislative Issues Briefing. Nashville area meeting is Feb. 6th.

From Family Action Council:

FACT's State Legislative Issues Briefing
 Save Your Spot NOW

These FREE sessions offer details you need to know about legislation in the General Assembly that is important to Tennessee families.

From people of faith and new or well-established residents to interested observers and the politically motivated, all will agree FACT's State Legislative Issues Briefing is a must-attend event!  Come to one of 8 locations across Tennessee that's nearest you. Select from the list below and save a place online.

Next Week - Register or show up at the door!
Jackson  Area - Monday, January 27, 2014, 6:30-7:30 PM (Central Time). Casey Jones Village restaurant. (Have dinner before or after the briefing and SAVE). Details and registration.
Memphis Area - Thursday, January 30, 2014, 7-8 PM (Central Time). The Great Hall & Conference Center, Germantown. Meet and greet begins at 6:30 PM. Details and registration.

February Schedule
Nashville Area - Thursday, February 6, 2014, 5:30-6:30 PM (Central Time). The Brentwood Library, Brentwood. Details and registration.
Murfreesboro Area - Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 5:30-6:30 PM (Central Time). The Waterstone Building, 3rd Floor. Details and registration.
Tri-Cities Area - Thursday, February 13, 2014, 7-8 PM (Eastern Time). Crossroads Christian Church, Gray, TN. Details and registration.
Chattanooga Area - Thursday, February 20, 2014, 5:30-6:30 PM (Eastern Time).The Chattanoogan Hotel. Details and registration.
Clarksville Area - Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 6:30-7:30 PM (Central Time). Clarksville-Montgomery County Library, Clarksville. Details and registration.
Visit FACT's website for more event information www.factn.orgWhy not attend FACT's Stand for Truth seminar? Click here for details and dates.

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Nashville could not ban guns in city parks under Sen. Stacey Campfield's bill

From WBIR:
Nashville and many other Middle Tennessee cities could be forced to remove bans on handguns in their parks if a push under way in the Tennessee legislature succeeds.

Gun rights advocates and several lawmakers are throwing their weight behind legislation that would overturn local restrictions on handguns in public parks, five years after cities and counties were told they could opt out of a state law that opened parks to handgun owners.(link)

My Comment:  
In August 2009 the Metro Council voted to ban handguns in Metro Parks by a vote of 22 in favor and 18 opposed. Had I been in the Council I would have joined those opposing the ban.  I am not concerned that licensed handgun permit holders are going to commit gun violence in the parks and I do not think armed thugs without permits are going to be deterred by a ban.

Many opponents of the State telling cities what they may and may not do, allege that  it is hypocritical to oppose the Federal government dictating to the states and yet embrace the State dictating to the cities. There is major difference. States have sovereignty; cities do not. The federal government is a creation of the states, states are not a creation of the cities within the state.  Any power a city has is because it is granted by the state. The power of the federal government is power relinquished by States to the federal government. The Federal government can not abolish a State; a State could withdraw the charter of a city. Federal is to State, is not the same relationship as State is to city.

The State is within its rights to ban a city from granting protected victim status to homosexuals, to let the decision on approving charter schools reside with State, or prohibiting a city from banning guns in city parks. I support Campfield's bill.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Troy Brewer seeks State House District 50 Republican nomination to challenge Bo Mitchell

Troy Brewer
Bellevue native and local businessman Troy Brewer today announced his intentions to run for the Tennessee State House in District 50. Bringing new jobs to the district, strengthening education and preserving Tennessee’s traditional values will be his top priorities.

“I was born and raised in Bellevue, raised my family here, and have experienced the growth of this community. I’m excited about the challenge ahead, but I understand they’re a lot of our neighbors still struggling financially right now. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do my part to create a better workforce environment for the next generation,” Brewer said.

Brewer, a 1987 graduate of Mississippi State University, received his B.S. in Finance, and was also a manager on the Mississippi State football team. Brewer received his CPA license in 1997 and currently serves as President of Brewer and Associates in Nashville where he has been in business since 2002. In 2011, Governor Bill Haslam appointed Brewer to the State Accountancy Board and in 2012 he was named to the NASBA, a National Accountancy Board, where he serves on the UAA Accountancy Committee. Brewer is a member of the Tennessee Society of Accountants.

“Tennessee deserves representatives who will put the interests of the people first, and push partisan politics to the back burner. I intend on working closely with Governor Haslam and Speaker Harwell to increase our opportunities for success by utilizing my business experience and conservative, common-sense approach in making tough decisions,” Brewer said.

A native of Davidson County, Brewer attended Bellevue High School and graduated from Hillwood High School in 1982. He is a member of the Bellevue and Goodlettsville Chambers, Farm Bureau, and the National Rifle Association. Brewer has been active in the Bellevue community coaching youth baseball and basketball where he also served as Commissioner of the Bellevue Baseball Park. He also previously coached middle school baseball at David Lipscomb.

Brewer has been married for 26 years to his wife Annette Sims and they have two children, Ben, a graduate of University of Tennessee at Martin, and Allison, a senior at Lipscomb Academy. The Brewers are members of Forest Hills Baptist Church where Brewer has served as a Sunday school teacher.

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Tell your legislators you don't support restricting retail food stores selling wine.

Dear Red White and Food Members,

Red White and Food believes that Tennesseans should be able to buy wine where they regularly shop for groceries.

Please contact your legislators today to let them know that you do not want so-called "big-box" stores, such as Walmart, Target and Costco, taken out of the proposed bill.

Red White and Food

My comment: I would hate to see no bill permitting wine in groceries pass because we hold out to have the so-called "big-box" stores included, however protectionism is wrong and there is no reason Walmart should not also be permitted to sell wine. The big-box stores have some of the best deals on wine, in states where it is permitted. A lot of people do their grocery shopping at Walmart. Stores like Walmart, Target, and Costco should not be excluded. In my view, any store that can sell beer should be permitted to sell wine. Rod

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The Council meeting of 1/21/2013 with commentary and time stamp notation. The Chickens and Beer Council meeting.

This meeting is only a little over an hour long. To follow along with the agenda, my analysis and the council staff analysis follow this link.

It is announced that this is the last meeting for Councilman Darren Jernigan. Jernigan also offered the invocation. Councilman Jernigan  represents Council District 11 and represents District 60 in the State House. He won the House seat defeating Jim Gotto, who had also previously served in the Metro Council representing District 12. Gotto was elected to the State House in 2010 following conservative Democrat Ben West who had long held that seat, who did not seek reelection. Jernigan defeated Gotto in 2012 by 95 votes out of more than 12,000 votes cast. Gotto is seeking to regain that House seat. Council member at large Megan Berry will represent the interest of District 11 until a special election can be held on August 7th.

All confirmations of appointments pass, as is the norm for the Council and all bills on the consent agenda pass without any being pulled.

Other Resolutions not on Consent: 

  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 appropriates $13,100,000 from the Undesignated Fund Balance of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund Operational Account for the purpose of funding the purchase laptop computers, teacher technology training and a universal screener assessment for the implementation of Common Core testing. The Director of Finance has refused to sign the resolution as to the availability of funds, saying it would be fiscally irresponsible to spend a significant amount from the schools fund balance giving the funding deficit projected by the schools going into the coming fiscal year. This resolution was on the agenda last meeting and was deferred to this meeting. The bill is sponsored by Councilman Bo Mitchell. Given that the school board lost millions of dollars of State funding by unnecessarily picking fight with the State and defying the State by refusing to approve Great Hearts charter school and given the school board's continued blaming of their budget woes on charter schools, and given the hefty increase in funding they got last budget year, I think this resolution should be defeated. It is differed again.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-963 authorizes the issuance of $15 million in general obligation bonds. It is substituted by adding $6 millions dollars to fund new technology to prepare schools for testing connected to the new Common Care academic standards. This is a preferable method of funding this expenditure rather than taking the money out of the schools undesignated Fund Balance. However, I hope the council is paying close attention to what is happening at the State.  There are several bills in the State legislature that address Common Core. If the State should back out of Common Core or decide not to participate in the Common Core testing, then this expenditure would not be necessary. The bill is differed one meeting.

All bills on First Reading pass, without any being pulled.

Bills on Second Reading: 
  • BILL NO. BL2013-603 would impose new regulations on small outdoor music events on commercial property. It is differed indefinitely, but a bill sponsored by Council member Allen that would accomplish the same thing is in the works. Why do we want to make it more difficult for there to be outdoor music concerts? I don't know.
  • BILL NO. BL2014-654 pertaining to the permitted hours of beer delivery passes. 

Bills on Third Reading: Third Reading is the final reading. If a bill passes third reading it becomes law unless it is vetoed by the Mayor, which has only rarely happened. There are twelve bills on third reading. The only ones of interest are these.
  •  BILL NO. BL2013-629 amends Metro's backyard chicken bill by removing the two-year sunset provision and also by expanding it to areas where it does not now apply. When the Chicken bill originally passed, several suburban Council members had their districts taken out of the bill. Last Council meeting, Councilman Bedne unsuccessfully attempted to get the bill deferred one meeting. The bill is substituted to require that an applicant for backyard chickens must now present a rendering of the hen house and a description of the material used to construct the hen house before being awarded a permit. The substitute passes. Bedne takes to the floor to argue against the bill and proposes an amendment to again opt out his district and eight other districts from the bill. Taking to floor in support of the opt-out is Councilmen Duane Dominy, Robert Duvall, Karen Johnson and others. For the discussion and to see how they voted see time stamp 34:16- 1:05:12.
  • BILL NO. BL2013-633 which would allow beer sales on Sundays starting at 10:00 a.m passes without discussion.

Below is the Tennessean's report on the Council meeting:
All districts in Davidson County will now allow backyard chickens
Council also allows earlier Sunday beer sales

Residents in all areas of Davidson County will now be able to keep small numbers of backyard chickens after the Metro Council voted Tuesday to do away with the exemptions previously held by eight council districts.

On Tuesday, after a 30-minute debate, the council voted 30-8 to eliminate the opt-out clause and require all 35 districts to let residents keep up to two, four or six chickens, depending on the size of their property.

 The council also deferred a vote on a plan by Mayor Karl Dean to borrow $21 million. The money would pay for $15 million of heavy equipment and $6 million of new technology to prepare schools for testing connected to new Common Core academic standards. The council is expected to vote on the proposal next month.

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Vote Yes on 1. End Tennessee as an abortion destination state.

From Tennessee Eagle Forum:
Click above to go to "Yes on 1" website

This effort is in response the to 2000 State Supreme Court decision that overturned our 48-hour waiting period, our informed consent, and the law that required that second trimester abortions be done in a hospital.  The court 'found' that our State Constitution had a stronger 'right to privacy' than the US Constitution under Roe v Wade. (Actually, neither Constitution contains a 'right to privacy' -- it was 'manufactured' in both cases.)

Because of this decision, I am embarrassed and horrified to report that TN is now an ABORTION DESTINATION state.  We should all be embarrassed and ashamed!

It is vitally important to understand that in order to be successful, this amendment must receive 50% +1 of the votes cast in the Governor's race.  We could get the 'majority' of votes and still lose.  Folks have to understand that they must 'go down ballot' in order to vote on the amendment.  Millions of dollars will be poured into the state to defeat this effort.  Killing babies is big business.  We need money and we need hands and feet to make sure that this amendment passes.

If we are successful in amending the state constitution, the legislature can then pass common sense, health-protecting legislation.

As you can see from the misleading ALCU news release below, the opponents are gearing up for the fight.

FACEBOOK: YES on 1 Tennessee

Bobbie Patray - 360-8810 - on the Board of YES on 1 Campaign.

On Roe Anniversary ACLU-TN Urges Tennesseans to Take Action
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 21, 2014 CONTACT: Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director, 615-320-7142; NASHVILLE - On the eve of the 41st anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Roe v. Wade decision, the ACLU of Tennessee urges Tennesseans' to join in efforts to defeat the November 2014 ballot initiative that would erode women's access to reproductive health care by signing the "I Stand for Reproductive Freedom in Tennessee" petition.

The petition states that decisions regarding reproductive health are the most personal decisions a woman can make and that they should be made with those closest to her -her family, clergy and health care providers -free from interference by the government.

In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a woman's right to access abortion and comprehensive health care. In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court further protected reproductive freedom by issuing a historic decision in Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist, a case brought by ACLU-TN and others. The Court reaffirmed the right to privacy found in the Tennessee Constitution and ruled that a woman's right to abortion was protected under that privacy guarantee, finding that the Tennessee Constitution provides even greater protection than the U.S. Constitution.

Ever since the Tennessee Supreme Court's 2000 ruling, a backlash has surfaced in the Tennessee General Assembly, culminating in the upcoming 2014 ballot initiative intended to make abortion illegal and/or unavailable in Tennessee. The proposed constitutional amendment does not provide protections for women in the case of rape, incest or endangerment to their lives. ACLU-TN is now preparing an aggressive campaign to defeat the ballot initiative and petition signers will be kept abreast of the ballot initiative campaign.

The following can be attributed to Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee: "The ability to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term without government interference is essential to a woman's equality, autonomy and dignity, with implications for every aspect of her life-her education, family, career goals, economic status, and, more broadly, her ability to live the life she planned. Forty-one years after Roe, some politicians are still trying to take a woman's right to abortion away. But across the nation and in Tennessee, 'the war on women' is galvanizing people from both political parties to come out publicly against these attacks. In November 2014, Tennesseans have the opportunity to vote against government interference in our personal, private reproductive healthcare decisions. ACLU-TN urges Tennesseans committed to protecting reproductive freedom to vote no in November."

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Clark Boyd to challenge Mae Beaver for senate seat nomination

Clark Boyd
Mae Beavers who has served in the State Senate since 2002 has picked up a primary opponent to challenge her this year. According to The Wilson Post, Lebanon small business owner and Wilson County Republican Party Chairman Clark Boyd announced his candidacy for State Senate in Tennessee’s 17th District on Monday.

"After much discussion, prayerful consideration, and encouragement from people around the district, I have decided to seek this opportunity to serve Tennessee in the State Senate," Boyd said.

“People from all around our region have made it clear that they are looking for fresh, new, conservative leadership in Nashville. With Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature, we as conservatives have a historic opportunity to advance our ideals and affect meaningful change, but only if we set aside differences of the past and move forward together on the principles that unite us as a party."

"Differences of the past," most likely refers to the bitter feud between Mae Beavers and Representative Susan Lynn. I will not rehash the reason for that feud here, but if anyone is interested they can read what The  Nashville Scene wrote about it in 2010. 

Mae Beavers has sponsored some bills that puts her in the camp of the nutty fringe. Beavers recently proposed a bill that would nullify any new federal gun in Tennessee and another bill which would make it illegal for any person working for the state or any subdivision of the State to in any way assist in implementing the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee.

Nullification is the dangerous and unconstitutional act of declaring a law null and void in the state and therefore unenforceable in the state.  Nullification has been rejected by almost all scholars who have examined the issue and has been denounced by conservative organizations ranging from The Heritage Foundation to National Review to the Cato Institute. In the past Mae Beavers has also pandered to the "Birthers," who continue to allege that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and is thus illegally serving as President. 

Clark Boyd is currently chair of the Wilson County Republican Party but has announced his plans to resign to pursue the Party nomination for Senate candidate. While serving as WCRP Chairman, Clark increased active party membership and implemented precinct level organizational planning for the Party.

Boyd is a small business owner and State Farm agent in Lebanon. A graduate of East Tennessee State University, served for 11 years in the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve before being medically discharged in 2007 at the rank of Captain. He has served as President of the Wilson County Habitat for Humanity, President of the Rotary Club of Lebanon, and is a member of the National Rifle Association and the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

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What's on the Council Agenda for January 21st with analysis and summary

If you don't know what the Council is voting on, Council meetings are really boring. With an agenda and an analysis they are just boring. To follow along, you can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro Council Agenda. To get your copy of the Council staff analysis download it at this link: Council staff analysis. However at this time the January 21st Council Staff analysis is not available. With Monday being a holiday, I doubt the analysis will be available before Tuesday. When the staff analysis is available, I will update this blog post.

 There are 13 Confirmation of Appointments on this agenda. None of them are to the more troubled or controversial Boards or Commissions. It wouldn't matter anyway. The Council always rubber stamps whoever is recommended.

There is only one resolution on Public Hearing and it is to exempt an establishment that already has a liquor-by-the-drink permit and is seeking a beer permit, from the minimum distance requirements of the beer permit. I think the code should be changed so that any establishment that has a liquor license is automatically except from the minimum distance requirements to get a beer permit, but that is not the case so they have to have these silly hearings.

Consent Agenda
There are 12 resolutions, all of which are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda but it doesn't happen often. Below s
are the resolutions that I am watching:

  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 appropriates $13,100,000 from the Undesignated Fund Balance of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund to the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund Operational Account for the purpose of funding the purchase laptop computers, teacher technology training and a universal screener assessment for the implementation of Common Core testing. The Director of Finance has refused to sign the resolution as to the availability of funds, saying it would be fiscally irresponsible to spend a significant amount from the schools fund balance giving the funding deficit projected by the schools going into the coming fiscal year. This resolution was on the agenda last meeting was deferred to this meeting. The bill is sponsored by Councilman Bo Mitchell. Given that the school board lost millions of dollars of State funding by unnecessarily picking fight with the State and defying the State by refusing to approve Great Hearts charter school and given the school board's continued blaming of their budget woes on charter schools, and given the hefty increase in funding they got last budget year, I think this resolution should be defeated. Since the Mayor's Director of Finance will not sign off on the resolution, I would assume that this resolution is doomed. I suspect this be withdrawn or deferred again. If not, I suspect it will be defeated. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-951 extends the license and franchise of Nashville Gas Company for an additional period. This was deferred last Council meeting without explanation and I don't know why it was differed. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-963 authorizes the issuance of $15 million in general obligation bonds. I don't know what this is for. I will update once the staff analysis is posted. 
Bills on First reading almost always pass. They are considered as a group and are seldom discussed. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. Bills are not assigned to committee or analyzed by council staff until after they have passed first reading. I have not carefully reviewed the bills on first reading, but will before second reading. There are only five bills on first reading and none of them are of interest.

Bills on Second Reading: It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. There are seven bills on second reading. The following items are interesting:
  • BILL NO. BL2013-603 would impose new regulations on small outdoor music events on commercial property. Why? I don't know. Unless I was convinced there was a serious problem that called for this new massive set of regulation, I would vote against it.
  •  BILL NO. BL2014-654 pertaining to the permitted hours of beer delivery. Unless someone could convince me there was a reason to vote against it, I would support this relaxation of regulations.
Bills on Third Reading: Third Reading is the final reading. If a bill passes third reading it becomes law unless it is vetoed by the Mayor, which has only rarely happened. There are twelve bills on third reading. The only one of interest is this one.
 BILL NO. BL2013-629 amends Metro's backyard chicken bill by removing the two-year sunset provision and also by expanding it to areas where it does not now apply. When the Chicken bill originally passed, several suburban Council members had their districts taken out of the bill. Last Council meeting, Councilman Bedne unsuccessfully attempts to get the bill deferred one meeting. Councilman Bennett successfully tabled Councilman Bedne's deferral motion. The tabling motion passes by a vote of 24 yes, 11 no, 1 abstention, and 4 no votes. Most of the "no" votes are suburban council members. This will probably pass, but it may be differed. I expect an attempt to defer or again exempt certain districts.
BILL NO. BL2013-633 would allow beer sales on Sundays starting at 10:00 a.m. To move it from noon to 10Am seems kind of pointless. Sunday morning church service is just starting at10AM. Why not just remove the Sunday prohibition entirely. I wish a council member would have proposed that amendment. Since no one did, I would support this liberalization of the current regulation.

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Deal near on wine in grocery stores, but no Two Buck Chuck or wine at 7-11.

Liquor, grocery lobbies ‘very close’ to deal (excluding big box lobbies)

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After years of bitter legislative fights over efforts to allow Tennessee grocery stores to sell wine, groups representing liquor stores and supermarkets are nearing an agreement that would give the measure its best ever chances of becoming law.

David McMahan, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association, told The Associated Press that the two sides are “very, very close” on a deal that would allow cities and counties to vote on whether to allow wine sales in supermarkets. But the measure would maintain the current ban at convenience stores and big box retailers like Wal-Mart or Target.

“The real issue is whether or not that consumer deserves the convenience of being able to buy wine where they buy their groceries,” McMahan said. “And that’s what we’re interested in working on, and helping the Legislature find a solution to.” (link)

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Corker and Alexander on honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Alexander Statement on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17– U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)  made the following statement to commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday on Monday, January 20:

“Dr. King’s birthday reminds me of a hot August day in 1963. I was a law student and summer intern at the Department of Justice, and I remember standing at the back of a huge crowd as Dr. King spoke of his dream that one day his children would not be judged ‘by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ This was a time of sit-ins and civil rights marches in the South. Even some major universities were just beginning to end segregation by race. So much has changed since that day, but his words are important words to remember as we strive to honor his legacy."

Corker Statement in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., made the following statement in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.

“Dr. King had a tremendous vision of what our country could be, and he also had the courage to stand up and pursue it,” said Corker. “As we honor his legacy, his example reminds all of us to pursue public service in a way that ensures we leave behind a better country for future generations.”

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Monday, January 20, 2014

TNGOP Statement Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaneyreleased the following statement in recognition of MLK Day: 
“The courage of conviction displayed by Martin Luther King, Jr. was as timeless as his message of equality. He believed in an opportunity society where each of us has a chance to succeed. While he may not be with us, his vision still guides us.
“Dr. King was a man of faith who thought the realities of America should align with our God-given freedoms. He knew, to achieve this, we must stamp out hate and prejudice while fighting for equality and opportunity for all.
“Let it be known that America is still journeying towards that destination of a ‘more perfect Union’ and Dr. King’s leadership and words ensure we will get there.”

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Corker Votes Against Spending Bill. Alexander votes for it. Marsha Blackurn votes for it.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker was one of 17 Senators who voted against final passage of a $1.012 trillion discretionary spending bill. He released the following statement:
I cannot support a funding bill that violates the only real progress we have made in getting our fiscal house in order over the past several years.  Instead of building on the gains we made in 2011, limiting discretionary spending, I’m very disappointed the Executive Branch and Congress continue to push for higher spending levels, like those contained in this bill, without enacting meaningful changes to mandatory programs that our country so desperately needs.
The Senate voted 72-26 for the measure.  All 53 Democrats, two independents and 17 Republicans voted for the bill. The 26 votes against it were all cast by Republicans. It increased spending by about $26 billion over fiscal year 2013, with most of the increase going to domestic programs.

Below is the list of Republicans in the Senators who voted in favor of the billLamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Dan Coats (In.), Thad Cochran (Miss.),Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Hoeven (N.D.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Richard Shelby (Ala.), David Vitter (La.), Roger Wicker (Miss.). (All Democrats voted in favor.)

Here are those Republicans who voted against it: John Barrasso (Wyo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Dean Heller (Nev.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Thune (S.D.). Pat Toomey (Pa.).

The bill passed the House by a vote of 359-67. Sixty-four of the 67 votes against it were Republicans. More House Republicans voted for the spending bill than voted against it.  In the House, five of Tennessee's 7 Republican's voted for the Bill. they are: Marsha Blackburn,
Chuck Fleischmann, Diane Black, Phil Roe, and Stephen Fincher. 

Voting against the bill were John Duncan, Jr, and Scott DesJarlais. Only three Democrats voted against the bill and none of the three were our Tennessee Representatives. To see how all members of the House of Representatives voted, follow this link

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School Board meeting of Jan. 14th. Pre-K expansion, Teach for America contract, the NCS Pearson contract.

This school board meeting is two hour and eight minutes long.  The School Board produces very informative agendas. To view the 54-page agenda click on this link and click, "01.14.14 Regular Meeting."

Forty schools have signed up for Watch Dogs, which is "Dads of Great Students." This program It is "an innovative father involvement, educational initiative of the National Center For Fathering.
It began in 1998 in a single school in Springdale, Arkansas and has since grown into a nationally
recognized program that has brought hundreds of thousands of fathers and father figures into our
nation’s classrooms and hallways." To learn more about this program, follow this link.

School Board member Jill Speering discusses the contract with NCS Pearson, Inc. and the Aimsweb math and reading assessment for elementary and middle school students. Speering a retired teacher and reading expert has been an outspoken critic of high-stakes testing. Last month she got the contract with NCS Pearson deferred to this meeting. Since then she successfully got the contract modified so NCS will not use "nonsence" words to teach literacy and got some other changes. To read more about this, see this story in the Tennessean: Reading assessment with 'nonsense words' gives Metro school board pause. To see the discussion go to time stamp 0:13:50.

The school board voted to renew a contract with Teach For America for the next three years. TFA would provide up to 100 teachers a year for the next three years. The contract is for $2.1 million which includes services in addition to the teachers. There are currently about 300 TFA teachers in Nashville schools. MNPS hires about 600 new teachers a year, so about one-sixth of all new hires are TFA teachers. The MNPS administrators speak very highly of TFA and say they out perform other new hires.  School Board member Amy Frogge ask some probing questions about the contract which seem to indicate hostility to the program. To see the discussion go to time stamp 17:13- 33:49.

The most important part of the meeting is Dr. Register's presentation of a plan to expand Pre-K. See time stamp 35:49- 2:06:51 for his presentation, a slide show, and discussion. The plan would add 500 kindergarten seats in the spring and add seats until by 2018 every parent who wanted to send their child to kindergarten would be allowed to do so. The State has no plans to increase funding for pre-K and Mayor Dean has said Schools should not expect a blank check next budget year. Several studies show pre-K shows no improvement in a child's long-term education outcome. The school board is almost giddy with enthusiasm for the program.  Here is the Tennessean's report of this topic: Plan to expand pre-K in Nashville earns high marks at school board meeting.

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