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Senator Bowling Doubles Down Against Early Childhood Ed, Denies Telling Moms To Stay Home

We caught up with Senator Janice Bowling about her controversial comments about early childhood education and implying moms should stay home like she did – which she denies saying and says we twisted.

You be the judge!

 

VIDEO: THE TENNESSEE ANTI-LUNCH SHAMING ACT

Rep. John Ray Clemmons pushes his bill to stop schools from punishing kids to force parents to pay meal debt.

GOP Reps Terri Lynn Weaver & Jerry Sexton struggle with it, while Rep Ragan wants to make meal debt a child abuse/DCS issue.

Did Rep. Doggett Vote For The Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill Without Knowing What Was In It?

This week the Tennessee House Judiciary Committee voted to advance HB 836 (SB 1304), a bill that would create a license to discriminate in child welfare services, to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Anti-equality lawmakers have also introduced another discriminatory child welfare bill, HB 1152 (SB 848), that has not yet advanced from committee. HB 836 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday March 26th. According to the Human Rights Campaign:

“If passed, these bills would allow state contractors who provide taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care services to refuse to make child placements with qualified, loving families if the family doesn’t share all of the agency’s religious beliefs. Under these proposals state-licensed child-placing agencies would be allowed to disregard the best interest of children and turn away qualified Tennesseans seeking to care for a child in need.

This would include LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.”

Apparently this is confusing to some legislators.

Jessica Yokley, a Lawrence County resident who ran against Doggett in 2018, posted on Facebook that she spoke with Rep. Clay Doggett (R-Lawrenceburg) yesterday, who seemed to not understand that the bill would allow adoption agencies in receipt of taxpayer funds to discriminate without fear of losing government contracts.

From Yokley’s post:

“Rep. Doggett called me yesterday. He stated his support of this bill was related to business owners having liberty and that this bill does not apply to entities who use tax dollars which is why he supported it. Rep. Doggett said he would not support the bill if it included entities who receive tax dollars or facilitate adoptions for children in state custody. He has already voted for the bill in Judiciary Committee. The fact is, not only does the bill NOT EXCLUDE entities who take tax dollars, it specifically allows the organizations to receive them!

You can read this for yourself in Paragraph C of the bill below. I have also sent this to Rep. Doggett so that he can see I am speaking the truth.”

Yokley then includes the text of the bill in her post, which you can read in its entirety here.

In the comments underneath the post, another Lawrence County resident posts an excerpt of her exchange with Doggett in which he says he’s “looking into it”… which is concerning since he already voted FOR the bill in committee.

This begs the question – how many other bills is Doggett voting on without understanding? And how many other Tennessee legislators are voting to allow discrimination with taxpayer dollars without even knowing that’s what they’re doing?

Whether or not you agree with the policy, we should all be able to agree that voting on a bill without understanding the fundamentals of what’s in it is a problem. Lawrence County residents are well within their rights to ask Doggett how that could be the case.

To hear more about the bill and why it’s “bad for kids”, watch our video from last week HERE, or check out this other post from Yokley, an adoptive parent herself, which initially called out Doggett and started their dialogue, including:

“How dare you risk a child’s chance at a stable home.”

And here’s more on the ramifications of the bill from HRC:

Preliminary findings from HRC and Clark University’s National Foster Care and Adoption survey found that:

  • Eighty-eight percent of LGBTQ people living in Tennessee are considering welcoming a child into their home via adoption or foster care in the future;
  • Further, 92 percent fear they will be discriminated against because they are LGBTQ while pursuing adoption or foster care;
  • Eighty percent have potential concerns about finding an LGBTQ-inclusive adoption or foster care agency in their city; and
  • Sixty-seven percent would be less likely to pursue adoption and foster care if a law allowing state-sanctioned discrimination was on the books in Tennessee.

These statistics are alarming, especially when the Tennessee legislature continues to push these harmful bills that ultimately lessen the pool of qualified foster and adoptive parents. Children should not be forced to age out of foster care without a family connection, or wait indefinitely in foster care when qualified families are ready to adopt or foster the child. This legislation exacerbates the problem and leaves more and more children waiting for forever homes.

If you agree that this bill is bad for kids, holler at Doggett or your reps.

The Holler has reached out to Doggett for comment.

GOP Williamson School Board Member Uses Math To Rip Lee’s Voucher Plan

Andy Spears owns the public policy consulting firm Spears Strategy which provides policy and advocacy consulting to school systems, non-profits, and parent groups. Spears holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration with an emphasis in education policy. Over the past 15 years, he has worked in public policy roles in state and local government in Kentucky and Tennessee. Follow @TheAndySpears for his take on politics and policy and subscribe to the TN ED REPORT HERE.

In an absolutely epic Twitter thread yesterday, Williamson County School Board member Eric Welch makes a case for vouchers.

Actually, he makes a case for voucher-level funding for public schools. Welch uses math to make his case.

Here are some examples:


Welch notes the significant funding gap between vouchers and the dollar amount per student Williamson County receives from the state based on the BEP formula. This is an important distinction.

Factors involved in generating the total number are based on a school system’s average daily attendance. That number then generates a number of teachers, administrators, and other positions.

The state funds each system’s BEP teacher number at 70% — that is, the state sends 70% of the average weighted salary (around $45,000 currently) to the district for each teaching position generated by the BEP.

Let’s be clear: The BEP is inadequate. Every single district hires more teachers (and other positions) than generated by the BEP. Local districts fund 100% of those costs.

Before the state was taken to court over inadequate funding, the BEP Review Committee used to list a series of recommendations on ways to improve the funding formula to adequately meet the needs of our state’s public schools.

While routinely ignored by policymakers, this list provided a guide to where Tennessee should be investing money to improve the overall public education offered in our state.

Here are some examples from the most recent version of this list:

Fund ELL Teachers 1:20 — COST: $28,709,000

Fund ELL Translators 1:200 COST: $2,866,000

Instructional Component at funded at 75% by State COST: $153,448,000

Insurance at 50% COST: $26,110,000

BEP 2.0 Fully Implemented COST: $133,910,000

Some notes here –

First, BEP 2.0 was frozen by Governor Haslam as he “re-worked” funding distribution and supposedly focused on teacher pay.

Next, the state currently provides districts 45% of employee health insurance for ONLY the BEP -generated positions. Districts must fund 100% of the benefit cost for teachers hired about the BEP number.

Finally, beefing up the instructional component by 5% as recommended here would mean significant new dollars available for either hiring teachers or boosting teacher pay or both.

Here are some “wish list” items on teacher pay, which reflect that our state has long known we’re not paying our teachers well:

BEP Salary at $45,447 COST: $266,165,000

BEP Salary at $50,447 COST: $532,324,000

BEP Salary at Southeastern average $50,359 COST: $527,646,000

BEP Salary at State average (FY14) $50,116 COST: $514,703,000

These are FY14 numbers — so, that’s been a few years. Still, funding teacher pay at the actual average spent by districts (just over $50,000 a year) would mean significant new funding for schools that could be invested in teacher salaries. We don’t fund teacher pay at the actual average, though, we fund it at a “weighted” average that is thousands less than this actual number. Then, districts receive only 70% of that weighted number per BEP position.

Making the large scale jump necessary to truly help direct state BEP dollars into teacher paychecks and provide a much-needed boost to salaries would cost close to $500 million. Bill Lee’s budget this year provides a paltry $71 million, continuing the tradition of talking a good game while letting teacher pay in our state continue to stagnate.

Here are some other recommendations — ideas that Welch suggests districts could pursue if only they were funded at the same level Bill Lee is proposing for private schools:

Change funding ratio for psychologists from 1:2,500 to 1:500 $57,518,000

Change funding ratio for elementary counselors from 1:500 to 1:250 $39,409,000

Change funding ratio for secondary counselors from 1:350 to 1:250 $18,079,000

Change funding ratio for all counselors to 1:250 $57,497,000

Change Assistant Principal ratio to SACS standard $11,739,000

Change 7-12 funding ratios, including CTE, by 3 students $87,928,000

New BEP Component for Mentors (1:12 new professional positions) $17,670,000

Professional Development (1% of instructional salaries) $25,576,000

Change funding ratios for nurses from 1:3,000 to 1:1,500 $12,194,000

Change funding ratios for Technology Coordinators from 1:6,400 to 1:3,200 $4,150,000

Increase Funding for teacher materials and supplies by $100 $6,336,000

Instructional Technology Coordinator (1 per LEA) $5,268,000

If you look at these numbers, you see that a state committee of professional educators (the BEP Review Committee) has been telling state policymakers that Tennessee needs to do more.

They’ve been saying it for years.

Now, we have a Governor who is suggesting that instead of spending state dollars to meet these needs, we’re going to spend them to prop up private schools with little to no accountability.

Holler at Governor Lee HERE. And for more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport.

TN GOP Kills Bill To Stop Shaming Hungry Students

Republicans voted 4-2 to defeat The Tennessee Hunger-Free Students Act—a bill with three measures to ensure students can eat school lunches and not be punished when parents fail to pay meal fees or a meal debt.

The bill sponsor Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said the bill would stop school employees from throwing away a served meal if the student could not pay, and would also prohibit schools from punishing or shaming students who accumulated a meal debt.

Clemmons:

“We certainly do not want to have a child stigmatized or punished in any way for simply incurring a lunch debt at no fault of their own. We have had incidents in recent years in Tennessee where students have been treated adversely or stigmatized in some manner. Whether it’s being made to eat in the principal’s office and eat a peanut butter sandwich by themselves simply because they had a lunch debt, or being prevented from going on field trips because of a lunch debt, we want to prevent these types of things… this is no fault of the child.”

House Bill 0827 would also have required schools to contact a guardian after a student accumulates a debt of five meals or more.

The K-12 Education Subcommittee heard the bill March 6. You can watch the full presentation here.

Here’s a clip of the vote:

Republicans Seemed Supportive, But Then…
Both Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, District 40 (last seen defending her support for the bust of the KKK Grand Wizard bust in the capitol by saying “some of my best friends are black”) and Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, District 83, spoke seemingly in support of children eating school lunches despite a meal debt… but would eventually go on to vote it down.

Rep. White said:

“Any adult who would shame a child over an issue like this—shame on them.”

But then he used his remaining time to fixate on the unspecified cost of school lunches.

The fiscal note included on the original version bill, which White read aloud, said local school districts would lose an unknown amount of revenue on meal debts left unrecovered, but “Otherwise, the fiscal impact of the legislation is considered not significant.”

Rep. Iris Rudder spoke up as she voted, saying she was inclined to vote yes but decided at the last minute that she didn’t understand the bill.

Reps. Weaver, White, and Rudder ultimately voted against the bill—possibly denying lunch to some students who incurred a meal debt.

Shame indeed.

It should be noted that the very same day this bill was voted down for reasons of fiscal responsibility the Tennessean broke a story that under Speaker Glen Casada taxpayers have paid $7 Million more to run the TN House, and that his Chief of Staff is being paid $200,000 per year – a $130,000 raise from last year.

It should also be noted that today Rep. Weaver today gave a passionate speech in favor of the heartbeat bill HB 0077 and adamantly insisted we do everything in our power to protect the sanctity of life – but apparently that doesn’t extend to children of school age.

Rep. Kirk Haston, a coach and teacher out of Lobelville, was the only Republican to vote in favor of the bill.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, who is running for mayor of Nashville had this to say to The Holler about the failure of his bill:

“With this legislation, we intended to protect children from stigmatization and bullying as a result of incurring a lunch debt. As we all know, incurring a lunch debt at school is no fault of a child and is often not the fault of a parent who is doing the best they can to provide for their child. Under no scenario should a child should be treated differently or adversely or discriminated against in any way if they’ve incurred a meal debt in our state. This legislation would have protected our children. I am disappointed that a few Republicans killed what should have been a non-partisan piece of legislation to protect innocent children.”

How they voted: K-12 Education Subcommittee, March 6;

Representatives voting Aye:
Rep. Kirk Haston, R-Lobelville, District 72
Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, District 41

Representatives voting No against the bill:
Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, District 33
Rep. Iris Rudder, R-Winchester, District 39
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, District 40
Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, District 83

VIDEO: Rep. Faison’s “Facts” Flub – On Guns & the Bahamian Death Penalty

This week Rep. Jeremy Faison made an inaccurate statement in his defense of HB 1264, a bill that would would create a new concealed handgun carry permit process that requires no fee and only a 2 hour online training, meaning people would be able to get permits and carry guns nearly everywhere without ever firing one.

Here’s our previous video of highlights from the hearing, in case you missed it.

The bill is being carried by Rep. Andy Holt. It passed the House Judiciary Committee easily, despite the fact that even Speaker Casada’s own polling shows 93 percent of Tennessee voters – including 93 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of gun owners and 89 percent of current permit holders – support the state’s current permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public.

For some context: Tennessee is already the 11th worst state when it comes to gun deaths. 6 of the 10 that are worse have laws that make guns easier to get and carry everywhere. In 2017, Tennessee led the entire nation in shootings involving children with access to unsecured, negligently stored firearms.

Studies have repeatedly shown states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths, but some refuse to accept that and cite exceptions to the rule – like Chicago, or in Faison’s case the Bahamas – to “prove” that the correlation is not causation.

At the hearing Rep. Jeremy Faison – who thankfully seems to be recovering well after his recent accident – decided to go with the Bahamas as his example, saying:

“The places where the highest amount of crimes where a gun was used in America… those were in places that we have some of the most strict, draconian, anti-constitutional laws. So somehow this notion that if we pass what y’all call ‘common sense gun laws’ – which don’t exist – that crime’s just gonna go away… ask the Bahamians how that works. In the Bahamas you can get the death penalty for having a gun, and they have major gun crime every day. So I just want to encourage you when you’re trying to use that as an argument – you might want to research your own facts.”

Here’s the video:

Ok Jeremy, let’s “research the facts”.

Faison is simply wrong that “you can get the death penalty for having a gun in the Bahamas”. From the Bahamian Firearms Act:

Any person who purchases, acquires or has in his possession, uses or carries a gun without a licence therefor shall be liable —

  1. (a)  on conviction on information, to imprisonment for a term of ten years and to a fine of ten thousand dollars;
  2. (b)  on summary conviction before a Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrate, to imprisonment for a term of five years and to a fine of ten thousand dollars

There’s more to it, and the years have since been amended, but absolutely nothing in their laws that says “you can get the death penalty for having a gun.”

As one lawyer in the Bahamas told us:

“I have not heard of anyone being subject to a penalty of death upon being convicted of possessing a firearm in the Bahamas. Those convicted are often given a custodial sentence or made to pay a fine at the discretion of the court.”

Another Bahamian resident:

“Frankly, I don’t think you’ll get the death penalty for anything in the Bahamas. The Privy Council has effectively abolished the death penalty.”

Turns out the last execution in the Bahamas was in the year 2000, and as of August 2012 only one man was under the sentence of death – and he killed a police officer.

So that’s a big ol’ whiff from Jeremy there.

Where Faison has an inkling of a point is that the Bahamas does have restrictive gun laws and yet still high gun violence rates, but pointing to that as proof that in general stricter gun laws don’t work is no more valid than it would be to say that one country with much stricter gun laws has almost no gun violence proves they DO work.

Say Japan, for instance.

Again, studies of the issue in general have shown repeatedly there is a relationship between gun laws and the amount of guns, and gun deaths.

This is a complicated problem with many factors playing a part. The Bahamas and some other impoverished countries do have higher gun violence rats, but when it comes to the richest countries in the world, the United States is simply off the charts regarding gun deaths and gun ownership:

 

The Key Word is “Rich”.

The element that often gets left out of the gun violence conversation is the societal factor that has the highest correlation with gun violence is far and away poverty and wealth inequality.

The World Bank has a study that found:

“violent crime rates decrease when economic growth improves… faster poverty reduction leads to a decline in national crime rates.”

As Mark Kaplan professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs put it:

“There is a strong correlation between homicide per million and income inequality… countries that are most equal have the lowest rates of gun-related homicides.”

Here’s a good conversation about it.

So yes, the Bahamas and Chicago have high murder rates. They also have high poverty rates.

When poverty and inequality are rampant in certain countries/neighborhoods, and people are in dire straits and desperate, bad things happen – particularly when guns are extremely accessible within the vicinity. (Chicago has states with lax gun laws right next door, and the Bahamas has the United States nearby)

This doesn’t mean gun safety laws don’t work. On balance the numbers are clear: They do.

What it does mean is if we’re serious about addressing gun violence in our communities, making them cheaper and even easier to get in already dangerous states is not the answer. Instead, we should be focusing on gun safety legislation and policies that address inequality and poverty:

…Raising our $7.25 an hour minimum wage to a livable one…expanding medicaid… subsidizing daycare for low income families… lowering health care costs and drug prices… tax reform that actually helps regular Americans (rather than corporations and the wealthy)… criminal justice reform…

Programs that put more money directly in people’s pockets, makes their lives better, and takes them out of desperate situations will save lives when it comes to gun violence.

In summation: The Bahamas doesn’t tell us gun laws don’t work. The Bahamas reminds us gun violence is a poverty/inequality problem as much as anything else.

And with all due respect to Rep. Faison, maybe next time you should “research your facts” before saying things that aren’t true on a legislative committee, especially one that’s helping to create a more dangerous environment for our children.

Letting people carry in public without ever firing one is like doing away with Driver’s License tests. If you agree, holler at Rep. Faison HERE.

(P.S. – Gun safety laws and the 2nd Amendment are not incompatible. Ask Justice Scalia.)

 

HERE WE GO AGAIN: TN Republicans Unleash Slew of Anti-LGBT Discrimination Bills

This week Tennessee Republicans have introduced a handful of bills that seek to legalize discrimination against Tennessee’s marginalized communities, targeting LGBT people specifically.

Up first, “The Business License to Discriminate Bill” is back. It passed the Tennessee Senate in 2017, but didn’t move in the House last year.

The bill – SB364/HB563 – put forth by Senator Todd Gardenhire and Rep. Jason Zachary, would:

“prohibit state and local governmental entities from taking discriminatory action against a business based on that business’s internal policies.”

By defending businesses from “discrimination” rather than people, what the bill really seeks to do is allow businesses to do the discriminating against marginalized communities without worrying about losing government contracts – which would essentially amount to taxpayer-funded discrimination against marginalized groups such as LGBT people, Muslims, etc.

As Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project puts it:

“If, for example, a business has a policy of not treating married same-gender couples the same as different-gender couples, government could not refuse to contract with them solely on that basis.”

Meanwhile, on the adoption front, multiple bills filed this week would allow adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples based on religious objections.

According to The Tennessean:

One bill, SB 0848/HB 1152, filed by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, specifies that an adoption agency would not be required to provide services to a couple if it would conflict with the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and prevents the state or a local government from taking adverse action against the group.

Legislation filed by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, puts in place similar protections for discrimination based on religious beliefs and would prevent a couple from suing the adoption agency for refusing to provide services.”

Got that? One says the couple can’t sue, the other says the government can’t sue. Taken together, these two bills would allow adoption agencies to discriminate with impunity.

As Senator Joey Hensley openly admits:

“We were concerned that adoption agencies, such as religious adoption agencies, would be required to allow adoption when they had religious beliefs that contradicted certain lifestyles. That they would be forced to allow adoptions to people they felt were not appropriate parents, so we didn’t want those agencies to not be able to provide adoptions.”

Not “appropriate” parents. Meanwhile studies show children have just as much chance to thrive with “certain” parents as with straight parents, and the number of children being raised by “certain” parents is in the hundreds of thousands.

More good information can be found here.

The Human Rights Campaign and other organizations will join the Tennessee Equality Project in opposing this discriminatory legislation that Sanders says “does not put the interests of children first”.

It should be about the kids who need loving homes, not the bigotry of a few GOP legislators. If you agree, holler at GardenhireZachary Hensley, Ragan, Rudd and let them know what you think.