Friday, December 01, 2023

Metro Nashville School Board votes to close one of northeast Nashville’s highest performing elementary schools

BY SKY ARNOLD, Tennessee Firefly, NOVEMBER 30, 2023- .... The most recent state academic performance data shows Rocketship outperformed every other elementary school in the cluster in Math and English language arts and only one elementary school scored higher proficiency rates in science.

The elementary school has additionally scored in the highest or second highest category for student growth every year it’s been open, but that success was not enough to convince the Metro School Board to renew Rocketship’s 10-year charter agreement to continue operating.

Board members voted 8 to 1 against renewal Tuesday night.

The vote went against the district’s own charter review team that found Rocketship partially met state requirements in all categories including academic, operations, and finances. District reviewers recommended board members grant Rocketship’s request for a new charter agreement.

Board Chair Rachael Anne-Elrod led those opposing the renewal, utilizing comparisons involving schools less diverse and more wealthy located outside northeast Nashville to make the case Rocketship hasn’t proven it’s doing a better job than the district. (read more)

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for Library staff includes modules on micro-aggressions, LBTQ+, neurodivergent, and other topics ..

by Rod Williams, Dec. 1, 2023- I just stumbled upon these minutes from the March 2023 minutes of the Nashville Library Board meeting

"Ms. Luke gave a shoutout to the Core Administrative team for outlining a shortterm plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the coming months. Ms. Luke stated that the Core Administration team would go through nine modules regarding micro-aggressions, LBTQ+, neurodivergent, and other topics where learning efforts could improve. Ms. Luke continued that the staff would be given ninety days to complete modules and participate in discussions surrounding what they learned."

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TDOE Releases 2022-23 Graduation Rate. Statewide Graduation Rates at a Record High of 90.6%. Davidson County lags near the bottom at 81.2%

by Rod Williams, Dec. 1, 2023- The Tennessee Department of Education announced the 2022-23 statewide graduation rate is 90.6 percent, exceeding ninety percent for the first time and achieving the highest graduation rate on record since 2012. This is good news. This is real progress. 

The graduation rate is the rate at which students graduate on time, that is, an entering Freshman graduates within four years. For the 2022-23 school year, the most notable takeaways from graduation data include:  

  • Alcoa City Schools, Clay County Schools, Fentress County Schools, Haywood County Schools, and South Carroll Special School District each had over 99% graduation rates.
  • 61 districts graduated 95% or more of their eligible students on time.
  • 78 districts improved their graduation rates from 2022 to 2023, with nine districts improving by five percentage points or more.
  • 896 more students graduated in the 2023 cohort compared to last year, for a total of 65,476 students graduating across the state.
  • 29 districts improved graduation rates for the economically disadvantaged student group by five percentage points or more.
  • 37 districts improved graduation rates for the students with disabilities student group by five percentage points or more.

This is all great, however, some districts and schools are lagging behind. Davidson County's graduation rate was only 81.2%.  Excluded those districts like School for the Blind, and Achievement School District, and looking at only regular type school districts, Davidson County comes in last at an 81.2% graduation rate. Memphis Shelby County Schools are next at 81.5. Robertson County also has a low graduation rate of 83.6%. 

Among the school systems with a good graduation rate are Williamson County at 97.8% and Wison County at 98.2%.

Individual schools within Davidson County vary considerably in the graduation rates as listed below. Maplewood has the worst graduation rate, only graduating 58.4% on time.  

  • Maplewood – 58.4%
  • Glencliff – 59.6%
  • Antioch HS – 70.6%
  • Overton – 72.8%
  • Hunter’s Lane – -77.1%
  • Hillwood – 77.9%
  • Cane Ridge – 79.8%
  • McGavock – 70.7%
  • Pearl – Cohn 78.7%
  • Stratford – 72.3%
  • White’s Creek – 82.6%
  • Hillsboro – 93.1%
  • East Nashville Magnet – 98.4%
  • Nashville School of the Arts – 98.6%
Charter school preform a little better than the traditional public schools. 
  • LEAD Academy – 88.7%
  • KIPP – 95.6%
  • LEAD Southeast – 91.5%
  • Valor Flagship – 98.5%
  • Intrepid – 95.9%
  • STEM Prep – 97.6%
  • RePublic – 91.8%

Nashville's graduation rate is dismal. There is no reason Nashville should have the worst graduation rate in the state. We need a change at the school board. We need a mayor and council that will make improving public education a priority.  We need a chamber of commerce and business leaders that will pressure the city to improve education and we need parents who will demand improvement. To review the data for yourself, follow this link

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

My 2023 End-of-Year Giving Guide

by Rod Williams, Nov. 27, 2023- I have just completed by end-of-year giving and am posting below a list of organizations to which I contribute and which I think are worthy of support. Also, I am sharing some of my thoughts on giving. This is kind of awkward to share because to discuss my giving is kind of immodest.  I don't want a pat on the back for being charitable but hope that I cause someone else to think about their own giving. 

I am not a wealthy person, but I am retired with a paid for home, don't spend much, don't care about driving a new car, have some savings, and have more disposable income than I ever have had.  I am also old.  I hate to admit it, but I am. The way I figure it, my money will outlive me.  I only have one child and have helped her considerably already and will leave her a decent inheritance, so I am more generous with my giving than ever before. If you are in a similar situation, you may want to think about what you do with your money.  You can't take it with you.

In addition to the list below, I have two individuals who I financially help. One is a tenant who lives in the little rental house I own.  I could rent the house for much more than I do or just sell it.  By keeping this unit of housing affordable, I am providing a home for someone who would be unable to afford paying more for rent. I know something about this person's hardships and challenges, and I know my only charging a modest rent makes a big difference in his life.

The other person is a close friend with a disability whom I help from time to time. When her car breaks or she needs help to keep the utilities form being cut off, I help out.  She is good person and does the very best she can.  I think this personal giving is every bit as important as giving money to raise awareness of a disease or supporting a charity that feeds the homeless.  If you have a family member or an acquaintance who you could help, that may be where your charity should begin. If people helped other people directly there would be less demand for the welfare state. Personal giving like this creates a community bond. Often churches help fellow church members in this way. 

If you look at my list, some may say that this is not charitable giving but much of it is support for political organizations.  To my way of thinking, there is no more deserving use of my money than conserving the American Founding.  I want to leave the world a better place than I found it and I want future generations to know the blessings of liberty, justice, individualism, a free-market economy, limited government, and a world not dominated by authoritarian and totalitarian tyrants.  Freedom is the greatest gift we can leave our descendants.  Also, the free market is the greatest mechanism to lift people out of poverty. I do not make a distinction between political giving and charitable giving. 

Unfortunately, sometimes charity does more harm than it does good, both foreign and domestic charity. A good documentary that makes this point is Poverty Inc. Before giving, I ask myself if this organization just perpetuates dependency, or does it respond to a crisis, or support actions that really help people long-term. Sometimes it is hard to know. 

I don't want homeless people freezing on the streets, so I support organizations like The Salvation Army and The Nashville Rescue Mission but do not support The Contributor which really is not much more than a permit to beg. In fact, I favor adopting the policy of Brentwood which prohibits solicitation in the right of way.  I never give money to beggars holding signs on the side of the road. They may be scamming you and I don't want to subsidize bad behavior. I am not trying to pick a fight if you disagree, but this is my view.

I also do not contribute money to organizations that insult my values. For several years, I gave money to an organization that saves places of natural beauty in Tennessee and preserves critical habitats.  I still think they do a worthwhile job doing what they do. However, in one of their email communications a couple years ago, they went off-topic and expressed their support for Black Lives Matter, and I seem to recall that they pledged a commitment to equity and diversity, and social justice.  I support tolerance, equality, and non-discrimination but not modern woke concepts of social justice and equity. I marked them off of my giving list. I am not going to support any organization whose values I do not share. If it is not germane to what the organization does, then it does not seem wise to ostracize some of your supporters.  Their website does not contain that same statement of commitment to BLM and DEI and sticks to explaining their mission.  I may or may not add them back. I am unsure as of now. 

I join some organizations with only the modest membership fee. I am a member of Friends of Fort Negley and Friends of Percy Warner Park, for example. A few months ago, right after it opened, I took my grandson to the new Mill Ridge Park. It has a fantastic playground.  I was going to join the "Friends" group but when I went to their website, this is what I saw: "Our work is guided by an organizational value of the following: Healthy and active living, Inclusion, diversity, culture, shared space, Equitable access to outdoor space and recreation, Environmental protection, nature conservation, Historical reservation, Sustainability, Partnership, Agriculture."  Mabe throwing in the DEI helped them attract more "friends." I chose not to be a friend. 

My giving list changes from year to year.  Sometimes my passion for a project simply wanes.  My wife died of an Alzheimer's-like condition three years ago and was sick with it for many years. For several years I gave to the Alzheimers organization.  I have stopped. Not because I have had any falling out with the organization but because my focus just changed.  I myself have had cancer last year, but I have not developed any passion for supporting the Cancer Foundation. Giving is a personal thing and to each his own, but I am more motivated by other values than contributing to the awareness of or supporting research for a particular illness.

Much of my giving is political. As explained above, promoting freedom and making the world safe for democracy is as important to me as any other use to which I could put my money.  In the past I used to give to various Republican organizations. In my view, electing Republicans to political office was the best way to preserve the American founding, avoid a financial collapse, and promote prosperity. With many Republicans supporting the big lie of the stolen election and opposing the peaceful transfer of power, I can no longer just blindly support the Republican Party.  I am no longer giving to the RNC or the Republican Governors Fund, or the Senate or House Republican fundraising organizations. I do not want to support Trumpism. I don't want to support people who would cut funding to Ukraine. I don't want to help elect to office people like Marjorie Taylor Green and other Republican conspiracy theorists and nut-jobs, so I have suspended most of my financial support for the Republican Party.  I still give to good candidates.  Durning the last local campaign season I gave contributions to Alice Rolli and several candidates of the Metro Council and contributed to several races across the country. If you routinely support the Republican Party, please stop and ask yourself if the Party still represents your values. 

An organization I supported as late as year before last, which I have now removed from my giving list is The Heritage Foundation.  For many years I held this organization in high esteem.  I probably have been giving to this organization since its founding almost fifty years ago.  Even in my years of poverty, I managed to send the minimum fee for an annual membership. They were a free-market, pro-national defense, anti-communist, limited government think-tank. They had top conservative scholars analyzing public policy issues and issuing position papers.

A couple years ago or so they established a grassroots political wing called Heritage Action. I get the local newsletter called Nashville Sentinel. It is Trumpinista, critical of our policy toward Russia's Putin and support for Ukraine, and flirts with various conspiracy theories. It is sad to see this once great organization descend into Trumpinista populist ignorance. 

Another organization that I supported for many, many years which has gone Trumpinista-populist is The American Conservative Union. They are the organization that puts on the annual CPAC events. Twice I attended CPAC. It was informative and motivational. It is sad to see the change in this once outstanding organization, but the ACU no longer represents my values. 

Some people support museums, or the symphony, or their alma mater. Some may criticize one for supporting local ballet instead of starving children in Africa.  I don't. The world needs culture and beauty too.  I encourage you to follow your heart and give but give some thought to it before writing that check. Make sure your giving represents your values.  Also, there are charlatans that raise a lot of money to live a lavish lifestyle, and little goes to the cause they supposedly support.  A few years back several televangelists were exposed as frauds. A couple good resources for seeing how honest, transparent, and efficient an organization is Charity Navigator and Charity Watch

If you are looking for a place to give, please consider the following.

Rod's End-of-Year Giving List

The Beacon Center is my favorite non-profit and gets the largest single chunk of my charitable giving.  It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing expert empirical research and timely free-market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.  Time and time again, Tennessee is recognized for being one of the most fiscally responsible and economically free states in the union.  Much of the credit for these honors is due to the work of the Beacon Center.  The Beacon Center has worked to ensure the Right to Work by pushing to overturn professional licensure laws that serve no purpose but to keep out the competition. They have worked to prevent local government from banning work-from-home opportunities like recording studios in homes in Music City. They have stopped local government from forcing homeowners to build public sidewalks when they remodel their home. Beacon is responsible for enshrining the protection against being forced to join a union in the State constitution.  Beacon gets much of the credit for the advancement of educational choice in Tennessee.  Beacon produces the annual "Pork Report," highlighting the most egregious examples of government waste in Tennessee.

Nashville Rescue Mission: A Christ-centered community committed to helping the hungry, homeless, and hurting byproviding programs and services that focus on a person’s entire life-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social. We are devoted to restoring the whole person through a Christian approach that helps the homeless and addicted learn how much God loves them and gain the biblical insight they need to lead a productive life in and for Christ.

We provide emergency services that meet immediate and practical need for people experiencing homelessness, hunger, disappointment, and regret. By meeting these most basic and immediate needs, not tied to any expectations, we provide “hope for today” in a nurturing environment that reflects the love of God in tangible ways.

Guests are cared for in a safe, supportive environment where they can find refuge and rest. Once their basic and immediate needs are addressed, case managers work one-on-one with each person to identify next steps, including healthcare and treatment options with a goal of helping them change unhealthy patterns of behavior.

If you or someone you know is in immediate need of food, clothing, or shelter, Nashville Rescue Mission serves three hot meals a day and is open 365 days a year. You are welcome here.


The Mercatus Center: A research center at George Mason University that advances knowledge about how markets solve problems and help us lead happier, healthier, and richer lives. For more than 40 years, Mercatus has supported leading talent and scholarship in the mainline economics tradition, applying rigorous research to real-world concerns. Through our continuing efforts to bridge the gap between theory and practice, we strive to realize a world where markets operate at their full potential to increase abundance, civility, and well-being. Your gift to the Mercatus Center ensures free-market ideas are championed in public policy, the academy, and the broader public discourse. 100% of your donation supports educating tomorrow's academic leaders as well as generating peer-reviewed research on today's most pressing issues.

Doctors without borders: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) translates to Doctors without Borders. We provide medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. Our teams are made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistic and administrative staff - bound together by our charter.  Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality. We are a non-profit, self-governed, member-based organization. MSF was founded in 1971 in Paris by a group of journalists and doctors. Today, we are a worldwide movement of nearly 63,000 people.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee opened its doors in 1978 with commitment from several community leaders. The purpose of the organization was to provide a central distribution center for companies, groups, and individuals who wished to help provide food for hungry people in Middle Tennessee. During my years of working for a non-profit agency, we were a Second Harvest outlet.  This organization provides food, mostly bread, that would otherwise be thrown away, to needy people.   

The Fund for American Studies: (TFAS) is a 501(c)3 educational nonprofit that is changing the world by developing leaders for a free society. Our transformational programs teach the principles of limited government, free-market economics and honorable leadership to students and young professionals in America and around the world.

By offering a portfolio of more than 20 different academic programs, fellowships and seminars, the TFAS Journey helps cultivate future leaders from high school, all the way through to their university studies and professional careers. 

Today, there are more than 42,000 TFAS alumni making the difference in their communities and throughout the world by championing the values essential to the preservation and success of a free society.

Truth in Accounting. Founded in 2002, Truth in Accounting believes truthful accounting is the key for citizens, legislators, and the press to clearly understand the truth about government finances. To be knowledgeable participants in their governments' financial decisions, citizens need accurate and complete financial information. Our work has focused on encouraging public entities to produce financial reports that are comprehensive, clear, and transparent; and informing the public of the importance of truthful accounting.

The Salvation Army has Been Serving Nashville For Over 125 Years Through Much Needed Social Services And Programs. A 90-bed Adult Alcohol and Rehabilitation Center for men was opened in 1900 and served the community for over 100 years. In 1940, The Salvation Army built and opened the “Red Shield” Community Center – rebuilt in 1984 as the Magness-Potter Community Center which offered Army-administered youth and adult leisure activity programs. Now, the community center houses the United Way-sponsored Family Resource Center, the Red Shield Kids Club after-school and summer day camp programs, the Life Skills Learning Center, the Second Harvest Food Pantry, and the Emergency Services Program.  In 1980, the Area Command facility was moved from Demonbreun to Dickerson Pike, receiving the name the “Center of Hope”, and opened a 75-person transient shelter, an emergency shelter for men, and a day and night child care center serving homeless and other families in urgent need. Today, the Center of Hope and the Magness-Potter Community Center, along with the three worship centers, serve Nashville by being strategically placed in the neediest areas of the community. Our services are provided to all of Davidson County, as well as Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman, Williamson, and Sumner Counties. Your donation will directly impact your community.

The Salvation Army has been many things over the years as communities’ needs have changed over the years, but today, the focus of the Nashville Salvation Army is to fight poverty and prevent homelessness in our community through a myriad of comprehensive programs designed to bring a holistic approach to the individual’s or family’s need.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) is an educational, research, and human rights nonprofit organization devoted to commemorating the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world and to pursuing the freedom of those still living under totalitarian regimes.

Institute for Justice: IJ is a nonprofit, public interest law firm. Our mission is to end widespread abuses of government power and secure the constitutional rights that allow all Americans to pursue their dreams. Donations to the Institute for Justice enable us to represent our clients at no cost to them—and to stand with them no matter how long their cases take. And when we win for our clients, we secure precedent that protects the rights of all Americans. IJ’s work is powered by nearly 10,000 supporters from across the country who believe in the Constitution and its ideals. 70% of our funding comes from individuals like you. Please join our fight for freedom and justice today. 

IJ has been involved in several high-profile fights over the years in Nashville. IJ defended a small music studio owner from efforts of the city to take her property by condemnation for no other purpose than to provide room for expansion of a bigger neighbor.  In the pre-ride-share days of Uber and Lyft, IJ defended an innovative entrepreneur who wanted to provide cheaper limo rides. IJ has defended homeowners who wanted to work from home.

The American Enterprise Institute is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world. The work of our scholars and staff advances ideas rooted in our belief in democracy, free enterprise, American strength and global leadership, solidarity with those at the periphery of our society, and a pluralistic, entrepreneurial culture.

The Center Square. The disappearance and decline of journalism concern me.  Nashville went from two daily papers to one newspaper that is only a shadow of its formal self.  While there are lots of people, like me, blogging and sharing opinions, without staff they can seldom break stories.  Journalism needs paid boots on the ground. News, especially local news, most often comes down to shootings, car wrecks, sports, and reposted press releases.  There are far too few outlets looking for scandals and corruption.  The watchdog of democracy has died.

The Center Square is conservative but without the rancor, sensationalism, and conspiratorial mindset of what defines many so-called conservative news sources today. 

"The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. A taxpayer sensibility distinguishes our work from other coverage of state and local issues. As a result of this approach, our readers are better informed about the focus of state and local government and its cost to the citizens whose tax dollars fund governmental decisions.

The Center Square is staffed by editors and reporters with extensive professional journalism experience. We engage readers with essential news, data and analysis – delivered with velocity, frequency and consistency. We distribute our journalism through three main channels at no cost to our partners or readers: a newswire service to legacy publishers and broadcasters. The Center Square is a project of the 501(c)(3) Franklin News Foundation, headquartered in Chicago."

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Pre-Born! are both organizations that partner with life-affirming pregnancy clinics all across the nation. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, several states where abortion is still legal have become key destinations for vulnerable women seeking abortions. Planned Parenthood is working to place mobile abortion units on the borders of states where abortion is illegal. 

Both of the above-sited organizations provide ultrasound equipment to pro-life pregnancy crisis centers.  Data shows that when an expectant mother sees an ultrasound image of her baby and hears the heartbeat, she most often decides to keep the child.  I don't know which of these organizations is most efficient at what they do, so for now I am supporting both.

National Review Institute. Your support ensures that NRI will continue to preserve and promote the legacy of William F. Buckley Jr. and advance the conservative principles he championed: limited government, free markets, individual liberty, personal responsibility, a strong national defense, and the rule of law. Your philanthropic investment is a vote of confidence in our mission and our methods. 

Foundation of Economic Freedom. FEE's mission is to inspire, educate, and connect future leaders with the economic, ethical, and legal principles of a free society. These principles include: individual liberty, free-market economics, entrepreneurship, private property, high moral character, and limited government. Here are some highlights from 2021: We broke a world record for the largest online economics lecture. We made 95 mainstream media appearances. Our videos received 11 MILLION views and over 1.8 MILLION shares. On TikTok, we went from reaching 65,000 people to over 2 MILLION in just seven months! We reached over 83 MILLION Gen Z online.

Tennessee Eagle Forum: The TN Eagle Forum is a nonprofit organization that supports pro-family and conservative values. 

917 Society: The 917 Society is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization passionate about encouraging young people to
know the rights given to them by the U.S. Constitution as citizens.  As a not-for-profit organization with tax-exempt status, we do not align with, endorse, or support any particular political candidate, organization, party, or platform.  We support our Constitution and the democratic process and encourage civic engagement. Any accolades made in favor of the 917 Society are not solicited politically. The 917 Society provides pocket constitutions free of charge to middle school classrooms across the country. 

Americans for Prosperity Tennessee: AFP’s grassroots, policy, government affairs, communications, political, and education and training capabilities make us the best organization to change the policy landscape in America.

The Pamphleteer: The Pamphleteer is an arts, culture, and politics publication based in Nashville, TN. Corporate and
progressive media dominate the landscape in the state of Tennessee. The word "independent"—typically associated with legacy brands such as the Nashville Scene—means less and less as time goes on. Many of the perspectives from local media outlets you read come from an almost identical perspective, inseparable from the tone and tenor of politics at the federal level. 
The Pamphleteer seeks to reinvigorate local discourse by offering fresh, regional perspectives on local topics. It is our hope that through our work, we can challenge readers to engage more earnestly in local politics and motivate leaders to reach higher and farther in their efforts to make Nashville a world-class city.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact. Our bipartisan leadership comprises some of the nation's leading budget experts, including many past heads of the House and Senate Budget Committees, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Government Accountability Office. 

As an independent source of objective policy analysis, we regularly engage policymakers of both parties and help them develop and analyze proposals to improve the country’s fiscal and economic condition. These efforts have reinforced the Committee’s role as an authoritative voice for fiscal responsibility and an educational resource for policymakers and the general public. We are also a trusted budget watchdog that assists journalists across the country in understanding fiscal developments in Washington.

In 2023, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget sought to educate and engage the public, policymakers, and the media about the major fiscal issues facing our nation from the debt ceiling negotiations and passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act to the looming insolvency of our nation’s trust funds. We also launched US Budget 2024, which seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the presidential campaign by analyzing the total cost and savings from each major candidate’s policy agenda.

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Gov. Lee, Legislative Leadership Call for Statewide School Choice, Unveil Education Freedom Scholarship Act

“Tennessee parents should have the freedom to choose the right education for their child.”

Press release, NASHVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 28, 2023- Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee presented the Education Freedom Scholarship Act of 2024, his administration’s legislative proposal to establish statewide universal school choice, alongside members of the General Assembly, Tennessee families and education stakeholders. This legislation aims to provide every Tennessee parent with the opportunity to choose the right education for their child, while prioritizing families with the greatest need.

“A high-quality education has the power to change the trajectory of a child’s life, and there’s no questionthat now is the time to make school choice a reality for every Tennessee family,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Tennessee’s Education Freedom Scholarships will empower parents with the freedom to choose the right education for their child, while also giving them a say in how their taxpayer dollars are invested. In the coming months, I look forward to working with Tennessee families and members of the General Assembly to accomplish this historic legislative initiative and establish Tennessee as a leader in providing choice for families while also striving toward the best public school system in the country.”

Working to expand the educational choices parents and students have available to them is always a worthy goal,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. “I am grateful Governor Lee has brought forth this proposal and I look forward to working with him, Speaker Sexton and all members of the General Assembly in pursuit of that goal."

“We all agree that every child should have an opportunity for a quality education that meets their needs, and I strongly believe the ultimate decision should be made by parents, not government bureaucrats,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton. “This scholarship opportunity is funded outside the current K-12 funding model, TISA, which means dollars do not follow students. We all know a quality education changes one’s life and reduces poverty and crime within communities. In the future in Tennessee, students and parents will be in control of their education success, without the government limiting their opportunities.”

“Across the state, parents should be empowered to make the best education decisions for their children by having input over where their taxpayer dollars are spent,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. “Students should not be boxed in to attending a school that doesn’t fit their needs. I am grateful to Governor Lee for proposing the Education Freedom Scholarship Act to give Tennessee parents the ability to make a fundamental choice: where their child goes to school. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly and Governor Lee and his team to pass this legislation."

“Tennessee is serious about student achievement,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth. “This is a bold idea that will empower families and change lives. This initiative, combined with our historic investments in public education, will launch a new era of student success in Tennessee.”

The Education Freedom Scholarship Act will empower Tennessee parents with the freedom to choose the right school for their child and give families a choice where their taxpayer dollars are spent.

Tennessee residents entitled to attend K-12 at a public school, including homeschoolers enrolled in umbrella or church-related schools, will be eligible for the program. The bill is structured to prioritize eligibility for the most at-risk students before ramping up to universal eligibility.

  • 2024-25 school year: A total of 20,000 scholarships will be awarded on a rolling first-come, first-served basis.
    • 10,000 scholarships available for Tennessee students who are at or below 300% of the federal poverty level, have a disability, or are eligible for the existing ESA pilot program.
    • 10,000 additional scholarships available to a universal pool of students entitled to attend a public school.
  • 2025-26 school year and beyond: Universal eligibility for all students entitled to attend a public school. If applications exceed available scholarships due to funding, lower income, public-school and returning scholarship students will receive priority.

Since taking office in 2019, Governor Lee has been passionate about expanding choices for parents regarding their child’s education, while also making historic investments in Tennessee’s public schools, with an emphasis on funding students, not systems.

In 2022, the Lee administration worked in partnership with the General Assembly to pass the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act, transitioning Tennessee’s K-12 public schools to a student-based funding approach and investing an estimated $9 billion into education funding for the state, which included an additional recurring state investment of $1 billion annually.

In 2023, Gov. Lee signed Teacher Paycheck Protection Act, a landmark bill giving teachers the largest pay raise in state history. As a result, Tennessee is currently on track to become a top ten state for starting teacher pay by 2026.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

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Monday, November 27, 2023

State data shows 90 percent of MNPS elementary students falling behind in 36 schools


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — ... State data shows just 10 percent of students at Pennington Elementary tested at grade level for math.

And dozens of Metro Nashville Public Schools' (MNPS) elementary schools show even worse numbers.

An analysis by FOX 17 News found that in 36 schools, less than 10 percent of students are testing at grade level in math. Of those, 19 schools have less than five percent of students testing at grade level. (read more)

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Tax Relief or Tax Freeze may keep an elderly person or disabled person from losing their home.

by Rod Williams, Nov. 15, 2023- Many low-income families in Nashville struggle to pay their property taxes and high property taxes can put owners at risk of losing their home.  There are two programs in Nashville to help low-income homeowners with their property taxes. These programs cannot help all low-income people, but they can help the disabled and the elderly.

These programs are the Tax Relief program and the Tax Freeze program. If you have a friend or relative who is elderly or disabled and is struggling financially, please make them aware of these programs. If you are a minister, or someone who works at a social service agency, or someone who delivers meals-on-wheels, or the president of a neighborhood organization, or anyone who encounters people with low income, please familiarize yourself with these programs. Making a timely referral may keep someone from losing their home.  The following information and more information about these programs can be found at this link

Tax Relief/Exemptions

Do the elderly, disabled or disabled veterans receive any discounts or exemptions?

Eligibility requirements include: age/ disability; ownership/ residency; and income. To apply for property tax relief you must meet these three basic criteria - these are described below. Reimbursements for the property taxes of low-income homeowners who are elderly or disabled are provided by the state of Tennessee. Reimbursements are given on all or part of the local taxes paid on property which the taxpayer owns and uses as his/her residence.


During the tax year for which they are applying, an applicant must turn 65 on or before December 31. In order to apply as a disabled homeowner, a person must have become disabled on or before December 31 of the year. An applicant may apply if they are awaiting a decision on their disability claim. The state office must receive the final decision by May 31 following the delinquency date. The final decision must indicate their disability began on or before December 31 of the tax year.


An applicant must be able to document that they had ownership of the taxable property during the tax year. Ownership may be documented by a tax bill/receipt, warranty deed, probated will, title or bill of sale for a mobile home.

Income Requirement (Elderly or Disabled Homeowners)

The combined annual income from all sources of all the living owners of record and spouse of the applicant is required and cannot exceed $31,190 for the 2020 calendar year. Annual income from all sources shall include, but is not limited to, Social Security payments after the Medicare deduction, supplemental security income, retirement and pension benefits, veteran's benefits, worker's compensation, unemployment compensation, salaries and wages, alimony, total interest and total dividends. For income from a business, include only the net income or loss after expenses.

Disabled Veterans

Disabled veterans must have a 100% disability rating. The disability must meet specific criteria under service connection, be combat - related or the result of being a prisoner of war. For veteran applicants there is no income limit. Tax relief is paid on the first $175,000 of market value of the home.

Tax Freeze

Under the program, qualifying homeowners age 65 and older can "freeze" the tax due on their property at the amount for the year they qualify, even if tax rates increase. Applicants must turn 65 on or before December 31 during the tax year for which they are applying. Applicants must present:

  • Proof of age (birth certificate, Medicare card, driver's license, passport, etc.)
  • Proof of ownership (current tax bill or receipt, recorded deed, etc.)
  • Evidence property is principal residence (voter registration card, etc.)

Further, income records must be provided showing the total income of all owners of the property during 2020 does not exceed $44,510 for Davidson County. Income records include Federal tax returns, with all attachments, or other items acceptable to the Trustee. All applicants must sign an income verification form permitting the Trustee to contact IRS, SSA or the State Division of Property Assessment to verify income. The application is a public record, but the financial documents remain confidential.

Applications for the Tax Freeze must be filed by April 5, each year, and applicants may contact the Office of the Trustee at 615-862-6330. If you need information concerning the program, please feel free to call us with any questions.

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At what point should Metro Nashville Public Schools introduce Trans and LGBTG+ flags and ideology?

by Rod Williams, Nov. 16, 2023- According to this post from Gina Sillks on Nextdoor, this is what is going in kindergarten in a Metro school. Young children should not be subjected to this kind of indoctrination.  If sometimes it seems conservative parents are on a crusade to "ban books" or otherwise censor what is taught in schools, it does not just come out of the blue. Sometimes there may be an overreaction, but there is just cause to be concerned with liberal indoctrination of children in public schools. 


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Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Bastiat Society of Nashville presents, "Tennessee’s Freedom: Where Do Volunteers Stand?" with Jason Sorens

Tue Nov 28th 6:00pm - 8:00pm (CST)
Richland Country Club, 1 Club Dr, Nashville, TN 37215, 

AIER’s Bastiat Society program in Nashville will host an event with Jason Sorens, Senior Research Faculty at AIER.

The brand-new edition of Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom (Cato Institute) drops this month, with data valid as of the start of this year. Tennessee has been one of the freest states in the country in recent years. Is that still true? Where does Tennessee do well, and where could it improve? How has the state changed in recent years? What does the research tell us about the effects of freedom on people and the economy?

Eventbrite Ticket Required. Register here.

6:00 - 6:30 pm: Networking
6:30 - 7:15 pm: Presentation
7:15 - 7:30 pm: Q & A

Ticket Prices:
$0 for Founding Members
$10 for Annual Members
$20 for Non-Members
$0 for Actively enrolled university students who register with a .edu email address. Those who register with a non .edu email address will be unregistered and asked to purchase tickets at full price.

More about the speaker:
Jason Sorens is an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research. He has taught at Yale, Buffalo, Dartmouth, and Saint Anselm College, and his work focuses on state economic policies, land-use regulation, and real estate economics. Jason received his B.A. in economics and philosophy from Washington and Lee and his Ph.D. in political science from Yale. 

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Congress and Society needs Standards, Rules, Decorum, and Manners.

by Rod Williams, Nov. 19, 2023- Recently I posted here and here about the feud between Kevin
McCarthy and Tennessee's Tim Burchett that may or may have not turned physical. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan reports that this is not the only time this charge has been made against McCarthy. She writes that Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.), in a memoir published earlier this year, wrote that Mr. McCarthy had twice gotten physical with him in almost exactly the same way. 

This is astounding and embarrassing. This, however, is not the only indication of lack of decorum and of incivility in Congress. See this excerpt from Noonan's piece:

Also this week, in a public hearing, Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R., Okla.) challenged Teamsters President Sean O’Brien to a fight. Mr. O’Brien had gotten lippy on Twitter, calling Mullin a “moron” and “full of s—.” Why not fight it out here, at the hearing? Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) stopped it—“God knows the American people have enough contempt for politics, let’s not make it worse.” Afterward Mr. Mullin told an Oklahoma podcaster how he fights and what we missed. “By the way, I’m not afraid of biting.” “I’ll bite 100%. In a fight, I’m gonna bite. I’ll do anything, I’m not above it. And I don’t care where I bite, by the way.”

She goes on to report of other incidents of representatives calling each other "corrupt" and "liar."  Marjorie Taylor Green called Rep. Lauren Boebert (R., Colo.), “a little bitch” on the House floor. Noonan reports that Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.) pleaded guilty to falsely pulling a fire alarm in a Capitol Hill office building, which had to be evacuated. Prior to pleading guilty to the charge, he had denied it and compared his Republican critics to Nazis.

What is this, high school? What is going on?  There have been other times in our history when Congress was intemperate. In 1850 in a debate over slavery, heated debate led to name calling and one Senator pulled a gun on another, but the senator was subdued before anyone was shot. In 1856 in another debate over slavery one senator used his cane to beat another senator unconscious. And there have been other brawls, but not that often.  What we are experiencing now is quite unusual for modern times.

Part of what is going on I think is that Congress is representative of society. We live in such a polarized age that people tend to think of people with a different view as evil rather than just wrong or someone with a different point of view.  Compromise is seen as betrayal and lack of fidelity to principles. One should not compromise with evil, is the reasoning. Not only should one not compromise or seek common ground, but one should not even associate with the enemy. 

I also think that part of what may be responsible for the intense partisanship is that members of Congress don't get to know each other as much as they did in the past. Most congress people fly in just in time for sessions and fly home for the weekend. It is reported that there is much less of a Washington culture than in the past.  People who don't spend time together, probably do not get to the point of liking each other.  If you personally like someone it is easier to seek common ground. It is also more likely that you can argue your position without demonizing the other person. We know that there is a great sorting going on in America. People live in clusters of people who share their values. I have a close relative who is liberal and belongs to a long-standing book club. She told me that one of the criteria for accepting a new member was that the potential member had to be a Democrat. I think that same attitude exists in Congress. Fewer Republicans and Democrats know each other. 

Not only do Republicans and Democrats not know each other, they hardly share the same society.  I am old enough to remember when the talk around the water cooler was how funny Johnny Carson was the night before.  Now, there are fewer things people have in common. They don't share the same comedy and entertainment. Sports may be common bonding factor, but there are few such things that cross a partisan divide.  And, people certainly do not get the same information. Major newspapers have declined and people consume news that expresses a point of view with which they agree.  A person who watches Fox News is not going to believe something reported on MSNBC and vice versa. 

Also, the role of social media and 24-hour cable news has changed people's behavior. Reasoned discussion does not get noticed and this means there is less of it.  Action and loudness and inflammatory rhetoric gets one noticed and behavior reflects this. I also think Donald Trump poisoned the well. He brought an entertaining reality TV showmanship to politics. He made bullying and name calling an art form. His behavior paid off and he has a lot of emulators. 

Also, I think, more than anything there has been a change in our society regarding manners and respect and decorum. Starting in the late 60's the attitude of "let it all hang out" came to the forefront and this has only grown since then.  Telling people what you really think became a virtue.  Manners were seen as hypocrisy and formality was seen as phony. "Get real," "tell it like it is," and "don't sugar coat it" became admonitions as ways a person should conduct themselves. I think it is this attitude that can lead to bullying, name calling and punches. 

A few months ago in Tennessee we had an incident in which three members of the State House refused to follow the rules and took a bull horn and led chants from the House floor. When expelled for their behavior, they became national celebrities and were hailed as heroes, even being honored at the White House.  If this is the kind of behavior that gets honored, this is the kind of behavior of which you will have more. Taking to the floor and leading a mob is not democracy. Democracy does not work without rules and boundaries and decorum.  

Many speeches in Congress in which one is going to disagree with a colleague begin with, "My good friend from the great state of _______, said ...."  That is not being phony. It is setting an attitude of respect.  

I even think the way one dresses reflects respect for the institution and office one seeks or holds. It is not uncommon for people to even show up at funerals and weddings dressed like they are going to the gym.  Durning the recent mayor's race, at one of the mayoral forums, of the crowded nine or ten people on stage only one of the women looked well-groomed and professional and only one of the men wore a necktie. Several of them looked like they had just come in from doing yard work.  I think the relaxation in office work attire from the days when one always had to wear a tie is a good thing. When working, I liked "casual Friday." However, I want my mayor, minister, and banker, and Congressman to wear a tie.  The Senate almost changed its dress code so Senator Fetterman could wear his hoddie and gym shorts, but common sense prevailed, and the change was not made. At least for now, that small degree of respect for the institution remains. 

Society and Congress needs to endorse standards and rules and decorum, and manners.  Saying "please," "excuse me," and "thank you," is the lube that keeps people civil.  Being slow to take offense is a matter of habit and does not imply weakness. Listening and trying to understand the other point of view is not a violation of one's principles. Some points of view do not fit on a bumper sticker or Facebook meme and one should not try to reduce all arguments to such.  Being thoughtful is not being wishy-washy. Having rules by which to proceed in a debate or conduct a meeting is not anti-democratic. One needs rules to play a game and one needs rules to conduct business. The absense of the rules is mob rule and leads to chaos. 

I do not want to return to a time of extreme formality, but we need rules and decorum and respect.  If rules, and decorum, and politeness, and manner, and respect are hypocrisy, hypocrisy is a virtue. 

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