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“Nyquil and Tylenol” – Lee and Schwinn’s Learning Loss Nonsense

“The point is that, whenever we propose a solution to a problem, we ought to try as hard as we can to overthrow our solution, rather than defend it. Few of us, unfortunately, practice this precept; but other people, fortunately, will supply the criticism for us if we fail to supply it ourselves.”
― Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery

 on  “Dad Gone Wild.”

Nearly a decade ago, upon founding my think tank and beginning to release my white papers (tip of the hat to Peter Greene), I promised myself I wouldn’t write angry. And for the most part, I’ve stuck to that self promise. Though there have been times where I’ve been filled with self-righteous rage, feeling a burning desire to slam out a passionate missive, I have fought the desire and chosen to wait 24 hours to allow myself time to arrive at a bit more of a nuanced take. Till now.

These days I’m struggling a bit. Since the conclusion of the Tennessee General Assembly’s recent Special session, I find myself in a constant state of agitation. To be truthful, you should be as well. A big part of the problem is that the approved legislation was so sloppily written and hastily passed, that I continue to find new issues every time I look at it. Issues that serve to benefit adults more so than kids.

An added factor is the taking of what is supposedly a historic tragedy and offering a pedestrian solution. For months, Governor Lee and Commissioner Schwinn have been pedaling a narrative of dire consequences for the state’s children due to the pandemic using easily disputable data. According to Lee, “COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of education and we are on the cusp of severe consequences for our students if we don’t act now.”

By now we are all familiar with his claims of 50% learning loss in ELA and 65% in math. If these numbers were true, they’d be cause for deep concern. I’d assume that Lee believes they are true. So it stands to reason that faced with such dire straights, he has some bold initiatives in hand. Surely if he’s calling a special session of the General Assembly to focus on education policy, they’ve already delved into the crisis and are ready to meet the unprecedented circumstances with unprecedented actions.

Nope, what we’ve got are summer schools and tutoring corps. Kinda like going to the doctor and having him tell you that you have COVID-19, and then prescribing Tylenol and NyQuil to treat it. Fine under normal circumstances, but damn, you’ve got a serious life-threatening illness. One that should call for a little more than previously utilized remedies that are readily available.

Worse than that, the more you look at the legislation that came out of the special session the more you recognize it as a series of bills slapped together like a bad batch of bathroom hootch. So bad, that apparently the Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn herself isn’t quite sure what’s in them. When presenting the legislation to the State Board of Education members, she painted a picture of a series of plans designed to assist LEA’s, all fully optional and dependent on local decisions. That’s not the picture painted by a recent synopsis produced by the Tennessee Comptrollers’ office.

For example, go to the 1 hour and 12-minute mark of the aforementioned state board of education meeting and you’ll hear Ms. Schwinn clearly say, “districts do not have to retain a single child.” This was about the 3rd-grade retention rule in the recently passed policies. Arguably, she was arguing that there are several offerings in order to keep a child from being retained, but it also seems clear that Ms. Schwinn was downplaying the threat of retention. The video is full of similar instances of soft-peddling.

I’m not the only one picking up on the problems with the bills. Over at the TNEd Report, Andy Spears reports on push back by the Germantown School Board. The school board takes exception to the 80% TNReady participation required to avoid negative consequences as a result of student testing. In their eyes, the legislation provides the commissioner with the power to grant waivers but fails to provide requirements for earning those waivers. They are rightfully concerned that with a large percentage of students remaining virtual, they will have a hard time meeting that threshold.

Here’s the big picture, Tennessee’s legislators have codified a power to the Commissioner concerning something that she hasn’t been granted a federal waiver to implement. Federal legislation says that districts are required to test 95% of students. Many states are applying for a waiver to not conduct standardized testing at all this year. Tennessee isn’t one of them, we are asking for a waiver to only require districts to test 80%of eligible students. A waiver that has yet to be granted, despite Schwinn’s assurances that a cousin of a friend who has a sister who works in a coffee shop outside the DOE offices in Washington thinks that this is aligned with the thinking at the newly staffed USDOE. This is despite Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, still awaiting confirmation.

It’s a pretty presumptuous move considering that Cardona has sent mixed signals on how he’ll address standardized testing this year. Per Chalkbeat,

“If the conditions under COVID-19 prevent a student from being in school in person, I don’t think we need to be bringing students in just to test them,” he said. At the same time, he said getting a gauge of student learning is important. “If we don’t assess where our students are and their level of performance, it’s going to be difficult for us to provide targeted support.”

A bigger question would be, why are we even administering standardized tests at all this year? Across the state of Tennessee, students have faced a wide array of educational options this year. Some have been exclusively remote, while some have received mainly live instruction. Others its been a mixed set of options. Some families have been severely impacted by COVID, while others remain mostly unscathed. The bottom line is that everyone is doing their best to navigate the ongoing crisis with varying degrees of success. As such, time spent testing would be better spent helping kids adjust to their circumstances and continuing instructional efforts. The Education Trust and several allies disagree.

The national non-profit education advocacy group, headed up locally by MNPS school board member Gini Pupo-Walker, have sent a joint letter to the USDOE urging them to not grant any testing waivers. Citing a report by McKinsey and Company – yes, the opioid folks – they claim,

These factors have cost students, by some estimates, an average of seven months of learning, with a disparate impact of nine months for Latino students and 10 months for Black students. The projected impact of interrupted learning for students from low-income backgrounds is more than a year.1 Perhaps even more concerning, as many as 3 million students are still missing from school.2

Besides the obvious, that “months of learning” is a bullshit number that assumes all kids learn at the same rate, the letter paints a picture of schools not having a clear idea of where students are after nearly a year of interruption due to the COVID-19 crisis. It’s a picture shared by Commissioner Schwinn and Governor Lee as well. It’s also inaccurate.

What everyone fails to tell you is that we have already tested the heck out of kids. Since arriving back from Winter Break, my 5th grader and my 6th grader have already been subjected to the second round of Math and ELA testing with both MAP and IReady. EL students are now starting on WIDA testing. Tennessee’s RTI legislation requires schools to use a screener three times a year. So to act as if we don’t know where students are at this juncture is a little disingenuous. As is the inference that by administrating the BIG TEST, three million students are going to come running back to schools. Both are myths crafted to fuel adult agendas.

Let me tell you what is more likely to happen. The state does not have access this year to individual LEA’s student data from local tests, which changes next year. Therefore they need the results from the BIG TEST. I know they said that this year is a hold harmless year, but that doesn’t mean that results can’t be used in order to support the TNDOE’s narrative of failure. I’m sure that over the summer there will be a great clutching of pearls and rendering of garments over the sad state of Tennessee’s schoolchildren based on results from a test given in the midst of a pandemic. Legislators and bureaucrats will sprain their arms patting each other on the back about their great foresight in passing legislation to combat the dire straits our children now find themselves in.

That’s not to say that summer camp and tutoring can be beneficial to kids. research has shown under the right conditions, both have proven beneficial. However, for many kids, it is not going to be enough. They, unfortunately, require so much more, some of which fall outside of the purview of the classroom. Those kids will, per usual, be left to their own devices, because serving them would actually require some boldness and forethought. It would also require addressing poverty issues, which we are always loathed to do.  Well, maybe we’ll give them a voucher, then we won’t have to worry about them.

There is another group of kids – “Bubble Kids” – that are very useful for politicians and their ilk. These are the kids that sit just below the “on-track” level. The ones who, with just a little bit of extra attention can be pushed over the line and claimed as a success story. Now before you recoil in horror, rest assured, I’m just making this up. It’s been an unspoken practice in the past and there is no reason to think it won’t be in the future. Especially when a man is running for re-election and needs some positive states.

Here’s, for further explanation, is an excerpt from a piece written in 2005,

So the bubble kids are identified, divided into groups, and tutored relentlessly. The kids who missed by 5 or 6 points, maybe 10 points; what happens to them. It’s simple. They cant raise their scores enough to help the schools rating, so they are ignored. Why would you waste your time with them the school thinks, they can’t help us. They don’t get intense help with their work. After all, don’t you know, they won’t ever pass anyway. Why waste valuable tutoring time on them? Of course, what a brilliant idea – work with the kids who can make you look good and throw the others to the sharks. I truely wish I knew which of our administrative geniuses brought that obscene idea into the district. Thats Sheldon Independent School District, always go for the easy stupid solution instead of the complex one that would require planning, actual thought, listening to teachers, or giving a care.

Lest we forget, tutoring and summer school are not new. The new legislation proposes 1:1 tutoring levels for kids. Where are those tutors supposed to come from? And if they are truly out there why have we not identified them in the past? How many people will sign up to be a tutor, collect their per diem to go through training, and then bail when they realize that it’s a lot more difficult than they imagined?

Tennessee established a successful summer program back in 2016 with the Read to Be Ready initiative. The program proved effective and popular with local school districts. But since they were initiatives of the previous Governor and not products of Schwinn and Lee’s tenure, they were left to wither, along with the network of literacy specialists when funding was left to dry up. Lee and his commissioner chose instead to focus on voucher legislation, which is still tied up in court.

Reading about the program in a past edition of Chalkbeat can evoke a clear sense of missed opportunity,

And what began with 12 summer reading camps in the program’s inaugural year — through a $1 million gift from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation — had grown tenfold by the second year, thanks in large part to a federal DHS grant. Last summer, more than 7,700 children who are mostly economically disadvantaged took part in 250 reading camps across the state, and more than 193,000 high-quality books were given to the students to take home. Even more camps are underway this summer via an $8.9 million grant program.

According to a report released last fall, first-, second-, and third-graders who participated in the camps showed gains in reading comprehension and accuracy skills for a third straight year. And the last two summers generated statistically significant improvements in those skills, based on assessments given in the early and last days of the camps.

Despite recent evidence, nobody called, “Bullshit,” when special session legislation was rolled out. Nobody pointed out that previously camps were funded at a 1:16 ratio of teachers/students in the past and that under the new legislation, despite being flush with federal dollars, it would be 1:20. Questions were raised about adequate funding, but just as quickly dismissed. The reality is that this year’s legislation fails to provide adequate funding for districts to open their buildings in the summer months.

It was no different with the bill granting raises to teachers. $120 million sounds great unless you do the math. Teachers may have been promised a 4% raise, but all one has to do is read the Comptrollers report to get a clear understanding that Tennessee’s teachers shouldn’t be planning any big purchases shortly.

The additional funding may be used to support salary increases for certified staff as well as school nurses. Flexibility within the appropriations language allows districts to determine how to distribute the additional funds, such as through salary increases or bonuses. The increase is generally based on the number of positions calculated for each district in the instructional salary category of the BEP. In FY 2021, the BEP funded approximately 66,241 licensed instructional positions; school districts employed 77,704 instructional personnel in 2018-19, the latest year of data available.

Once again, politicians get a blurb for their palm cards, while teachers are left with an empty bag. But nobody says anything. Teachers say nothing because they’ve become accustomed to empty promises from legislators and as a result tune out the words before they even leave the mouths of legislators. Others are too concerned about losing access or their seat at the table. Don’t want to make anyone mad, or you’ll lose your staus. And so once again, another session passes with teachers falling economically further behind.

Right now in D.C., there is a lot of talk about the death of Democracy. Nothing will destroy democracy faster than enabling politicians to continually craft bad laws unchallenged. While we all fight to preserve our seat at the table, the table continually shrinks, until it reaches a point where all the power is consolidated in a few hands. Hands that work to exclude all that disagree.

Representative Cerpicky from Maury County is this year’s Chair of the House’s Education-Instruction subcommittee. This week he held his first committee meeting. He began proceedings, by stating the purpose of the committee. In his words,

“We are here to be child-centered. To be student-centered. We are not here to protect the status quo ore the system. Except for the parts of that system that succeed in putting the success of our children first. We are not here for the comfort of adults, but for the opportunities for excellence, advancement, and ultimately to be advocates and essential stewards of the individual independence afforded by an excellent education.

How are the citizens of a Republic to be be free without the ability to look after themselves and participate as critical thinkers in this work of self-governance?”

They are beautiful words. Heartfelt words. Inspiring words. I hope that is not all they are. Otherwise, we are going to need a whole lot more than NyQuil and Tylenol.

QUICK HITS

This week Senate Education Committee Chair Brian Kelsey launched another attack on Shelby County Schools for not opening school buildings. Kelsey is supporting a bill that would give the Governor executive powers to open/close school districts. The fight is part of a much larger battle going on nationwide over urban districts opening school buildings. It’s a discussion devoid of nuance. Keeanga-Yamahtta-Taylor adds some of that nuance in a recent New Yorker piece.

Chicago public schools are only eleven per cent white; Black and Latinx students make up eighty-one per cent of the student body. Unsurprisingly, white students are overrepresented among those opting for in-person learning, and also those who are actually showing up to school. Since early January, there has been a phased-in return to public-school buildings, beginning with preschool and special-education students, with the next phase bringing back kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. Among C.P.S. elementary-school students, only thirty-one per cent of Latinx students, thirty-three per cent of Asian students, and thirty-four per cent of Black students were opted to return to school buildings by their parents. In contrast, the parents of more than sixty-seven per cent of white children opted them in.

Taylor goes on to show that just because schools are open, does not mean that students are showing up. I strongly encourage you to read the whole piece.

It’s good to know that I’m not the only one noticing how inadequate the TDOE’s READ 360 is. Today national writer Nancy Baily takes it apart. She rightfully questions Tennessee’s stated goal of “accelerating learning”. Pointing out that,

Accelerating learning seems to be an obsession among some policymakers, and it’s hard to understand. What possible good comes from forcing children to learn fast? Why are states still trying to make students race to some obscure finish line? How many children will end up with learning problems because of it?

Tru dat. read it all, you won’t be sorry.

At least one Tennessee lawmaker seems to have some common sense. Lt. Governor Randy McNally is quoted in today’s Tennessean as observing that, “Whatever we do will probably be reviewed by the federal government and they can cut funding to the state,” he said. “It’s an issue I think that we need to move very carefully.” His comments are in stark contrast to those of Governor Lee who 2 days ago made the claim that ‘transgenders participating in women’s sports will destroy women’s sports,” he told reporters. “It will ruin the opportunity for girls to earn scholarships. It will put a glass ceiling back over women that hasn’t been there.” In a ludicrous that is predicated on a large number of transgender athletes looking to participate in woman’s sports and a larger number of college programs willing to by-pass female athletes for college scholarships. To date, there is evidence of neither.

Congratulations to former MNPS principal Darwin Mason on his being named as Ensworth’ss new Head of Middle School for the 2021-2022 school year! Well done. Ensworth conducted a Nashville search before finding their man right here in their back yard.

Note to leaders. Creating an advisory cabinet of teachers, principals, or superintendents, is not sufficient. You have to actually listen to them. Otherwise, you might as well not form an advisory cabinet. Just saying.

We are slow in offering this, but we still want to offer our condolences to former MNEA President Eric Huth. Eric lost his son a couple of weeks ago. No parent should ever have to bury their own child, and our heart goes out to him.

If you’ve got time and are looking for a smile, check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we work to accentuate the positive. We’ve started to include more pictures of kids returning to buildings.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy. Now more than ever your continued support is vital.

If you are interested, I’m now sharing posts via email through Substack. This is a new foray for me and an effort to increase coverage. ‘ll be offering free and paid subscriptions. Paid subscriptions will receive additional materials as they become available. We’ll see how it goes.

If you wish to join the rank of donors, you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated, especially this time of year when my contracted work is a little slow. Not begging, just saying.

The Burden of Proof

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters” ― Albert Einstein

 on  “Dad Gone Wild.”

Two days ago the Tennessean ran an article reporting that MNPS had received a letter from the Commissioner of Education accusing them of fiscal malfeasance regarding their management of federal funds delivered through the CARES Act. In the commissioner’s words,

“I cannot underscore enough the seriousness of the current financial management of federal funds and compliance issues in MNPS,” Schwinn wrote Monday. “It is imperative that these issues be resolved quickly, accurately, and comprehensively, so as to provide students with the resources that they need and to move the district to a space of compliance with federal and state law.”

Yikes, dems are some strong words. Department spokesman Victoria Robinson followed up with strong words of her own,

“The issues addressed in the letter represent systemic financial and programmatic concerns documented by multiple oversight agencies at both state and federal levels over multiple years,

Governor Lee’s spokesman Laine Arnold piled on,

“When student achievement, teacher compensation and all manner of public education issues are blamed on lack of funding, $110 million sitting idly by is not acceptable for Nashville families,”

Apparently, things are a little slow in Memphis because Representative Mark White felt the need to offer his two cents,

“Unless we have accountability from these school districts, we can’t keep throwing money at them if we don’t see improvement,” said Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis,

As the basis for their criticism, several references were made to a recent audit put forth by the comptroller’s office. Per Schwinn,

“Within 45 days, the district must also remedy findings from a recent comptroller’s audit.”

Being the crazy guy that I am, I decided to read the comptroller’s report to get an idea of the severity of the issues. After spending 30 minutes on the state website and being unable to locate the said report, I called the comptroller, where I was promptly informed that the reason I couldn’t locate the report was that the report wasn’t yet available. It wouldn’t be available until…March. In fact, the comptroller’s office was still in the process of constructing the report.

Some of you may be unfamiliar with how the audit process works. Once the subject of the audit is defined, a field team is sent out to investigate. They compile data and notes. These findings are preliminarily shared internally to possibly get more clarity. All involved are allowed to offer a rebuttal to any findings. After the rebuttals are submitted the report is compiled and only then is released with the stamp of approval from the comptroller’s office. It is an arduous and rigorous undertaking.

Per the comptroller, the field investigation into MNPS spending has just recently been concluded. Speculation, that affords a generous amount of grace, is that Schwinn saw some irregularities in the preliminary findings, conducted her own investigations, maybe substantiated those initial suspicions, and then dashed off her letter. How extensive an investigation the DOE could have completed is questionable, as the impression I got from the comptroller’s office was that fieldwork had just been completed in the last few weeks.

I reached out to Victoria Robinson, TDOE spokeswoman, and asked if I could see the report that TDOE generated to support their allegations or at least the notes connected to the investigation. As of now, I’ve yet to hear a response and if history with this administration holds true, I likely won’t see a response until mid-July or August. Regardless of her reply, the facts still hold true, Governor Lee and Penny Schwinn, are attempting to punish MNPS while citing a report that does not exist. And based on their interference may never exist. The whole thing smells like a plot cooked up over Happy Hour at the Capital Grill.

The bigger issue is that it makes others complicit in the Schwinigans. The comptroller’s office prides itself on its non-partisanship – just the facts mam. With Lee and Schwinn, citing a report that is still under construction, that mission in this instance is possibly tainted.

Will the writers find themselves under pressure to craft a report that backs the Governor up in an effort not to embarrass him, or do they try and be kind to MNPS because perhaps they have kids in the system? Either way, the impartiality of the report is tainted. People’s motives will likely come in to question through no fault of their own, but rather due to the selfishness of the two bureaucrats.

That’s a loss for all of us because, in order to have a functioning society, there has to faith in the impartiality of our democratic institutions. The comptroller’s office, like the Supreme Court, is a key component in our democratic structure and as such, should never be carelessly used for political fodder.

If this was the first occurrence of such behavior by Governor Lee and Commissioner Schwinn it would still be disturbing, but defensible. The problem is, it’s not. It is just another instance, in a lengthy list of instances, of deception perpetrated by the bumbling duo.

Think back to August when the two put forth the idea that due to the pandemic, students were facing learning losses of 50% in ELA and 65% in math. When pressed to supply data to back up these suppositions, they just created a cloud of confusion, while failing to produce confirmation. The inability to substantiate their claims is because “learning loss” is a political construct and not a real measurement. Currently, no assessment measures learning loss. We can measure performance levels, and growth, but not “learning loss.” Anything put forth under that banner should be considered pure speculation and subject to personal desires.

Fortunately for the dynamic duo, nobody really delved into their claims. So they were free to continue to spout their falsehoods, and they did at every opportunity. Sure there was some mention that some people “questioned” the numbers, but most media outlets and politicians continued to talk about “learning loss” as if it was carved on tablets from Mount Sinai. Until this week, when Memphis television station WMC5 started digging into Schwinn and Lee’s claims. What they found, is that they didn’t hold water.

Despite new data suggesting COVID-19 learning loss wasn’t as severe as predicted, state leaders continue to use old data, which some have called misleading, to pressure school districts like Shelby County Schools to reopen for in-person classes.

Once again, a political agenda took precedence over accuracy. We now know that Lee along with Schwinn pulled the numbers out of their ass. A crass accusation, but due to the depth of their deception, a necessary one.

As a nation, we’ve just emerged from a deep conversation about the importance of leaders being truthful, and the potential of dire consequences when our elected leaders fail to adhere to that standard. Throughout their tenure, both Lee and Schwinn have continually acted in a manner that pays little heed to accuracy and honesty. Instead of choosing to pick and choose nuggets to use to make their arguments independent of their veracity.

It’s a pattern of evidence that includes an ever-growing list of instances. From the wasting of taxpayer money by inventing a costly excuse to avoid meeting with the US Secretary of Education to offering testimony to the head of the state’s Senate Education Committee, that she hasn’t met with vendors over a pending RFP despite video evidence to the contrary available on the department website, Schwinn and company continue to abuse the trust of Tennessee taxpayers through their machinations of the truth. Schwinn achieves new heights in the use of doublespeak. At one point during her recent special session testimony, education experts pondered whether she was actually using real words describing real circumstances.

Other instances include a willingness to receive a six-figure paycheck as Executive Director from a state-funded charter school for impoverished children in California while collecting a paycheck as a senior state official across the country in Delaware. As well as recently claiming in Senate hearings during a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly that the department will create an ELA screener that adheres to Tennessee state standards and is nationally normed. Something that is impossible to create.

Political insiders on both sides of the aisle have long marveled at Ms. Schwinn’s ability to contradict herself regularly in testimony to the General Assembly. So much so that at a Senate Education Committee meeting last Spring, where the Commissioner was slated to testify, the chair felt compelled to take the virtually unprecedented action of having the rules of perjury read before opening proceedings. You didn’t think that was just a coincidence, did you?

If MNPS is not properly spending or accounting for federal resources, they should be held accountable. But the accusations should be derived from existing transparently created documents that support the allegations. Not some half baked assumptions pulled from a collection of data still being compiled. Documents that in their completed form, should be used in a manner that protects the interests of kids, not in a manner that further the agenda of adults.

The truth matters. Being able to believe the words of our leaders is essential. At some point, the question has to be raised, does the Commissioner model behavior that we want to be emulated by the state’s children? Does the Governor? Not to be an ass, but currently, there is a whole lot of talk about christ around the statehouse, and a decided lack of Christian behavior. Somebody might want to work on that.

The Tennessee Department of Education currently is seeking submissions for a contract to construct a state-wide course on civics, one designed to help develop students into better citizens. It will ultimately be overseen by one person who has engaged in bully tactics – that report does exist – and another who suffers from the inability to separate fact from personal interest. That’s a scary proposition. Maybe I’m a bit of a square, but as a parent, while I aspire to be my children’s’ role model, I also want them to be able to look to the country’s leaders for evidence that doing the right thing matters. That leaders are people of character.

Based on his long history of working with those less fortunate than himself, I was under the impression the Governor felt the same way. I just haven’t seen a lot of evidence to support that assumption as of late.

Education doesn’t begin and end in the classroom. we are all works in progress and we all create the rules that govern our society. In order to create a society that works for all of us, it has to be rooted in truth and honesty. That starts with all of us and it shouldn’t be too much to ask that before we make accusations we make sure they rise to the challenge of meeting the burden of proof.

Conservative writer and Delaware State School board member Andy Smarick sums it up better than I,

When most leaders implicitly trust institutions and then work through them, the decisions of those institutions are generally understood as legitimate. But those institutions become even more trustworthy when their processes and outcomes are scrutinized and deemed to be fair. Said another way, good institutions aren’t merely trustworthy because they are reflexively trusted; they are trustworthy when they behave in ways worthy of trust.

QUICK HITS

Last night the MNPS School Board engaged in some discussion about the reopening of school buildings. It was reiterated that for that to happen, the district’s COVID-19 tracker would have to drop below 7. Today it rests at 7.7.

Even as the conversation around re-opening schools flares up in Nashville, it continues to grow nationwide as well. Lack of in-person learning is a challenge faced by all large urban districts. It’s a discussion that has wreaked havoc in communities and created division among former allies. Per an article in the Intelligencer,

On social media, everyone was an amateur epidemiologist. Commenters tore Fry apart, accusing her of misreading the data, underestimating the unknown menace of the virus. Some of the most vehement attacks came from commenters who identified themselves as teachers. “I couldn’t believe it,” Fry said. “I was arguing with teachers about the importance of education.”

The arguments got mean. The holdouts called reopeners selfish, lazy, and cavalier — willing to sacrifice lives for child care. “I still get called a granny killer,” says Maya Ziobro, a parent who supports reopening. “If we say anything about wanting our kids to return to school, we’re painted as Trumpers.”

“I’ve never been on the other side of the teachers union in my entire life,” Fry said. “I’m afraid of the long-term damage this is going to do between teachers and parents, because people think that their kids are suffering, and it makes it hard to sympathize with the union struggle.”

Much of what is outlined in the article is uncomfortably familiar to what’s happening in Nashville. Hopefully, some cooler heads will soon prevail and kids can safely return to school buildings. But the latter shouldn’t happen till the former is secured. No matter what side of the argument you find yourself on, I urge you to read the whole article. It’s long but well worth it.

Education writer, and professional educator, Peter Greene shares his list of education writers worthy of reading and it’s worth sharing. Yours truly is extremely proud to be included in his roll call.

TC Weber covers Tennessee thoroughly and with sharp wit and pithy quotes. “Nobody reads it. Everybody quotes it.”

Bookmark him and the rest of the list, you’ll be better for it.

Bill Lee may not like to talk to Tennessee reporters, but yesterday he set down with the Washington Examiner where he made the erroneous claim that only 2 districts in Tennessee remained all-virtual. Apparently, he doesn’t read his COVID tracker either. For the record, as of last week, 13 of Tennessee’s districts were still virtual. One in fact remains closed, Kingsport. Below is the list of those remaining remote, with the names of those local representatives who supported a bill forcing schools open in parenthesis.

Alvin C York Institute – state-run school
Bledsoe County
Cheatham (Littleton)
Claiborne
Davidson
Decatur (Haston)
Kingsport  – closed
Montgomery – (Reedy)
Richard City (Warner)
Shelby (White)
Sullivan (plan to return this week)
TN School for Blind – state-run school
TN State Board of Education – state-run schools
Washington (Tim Hicks and Rebecca Alexander)
Oh…and the Department of Education? As I was informed this morning on the phone…they are working remotely as well. When asked by the Examiner about how he was going to bring schools around that weren’t open for in-person instruction, Lee had this to say,

It is Nashville and Memphis. And we’re actually working on that issue right now. We had a special session last week that I called for our legislature to address learning loss and to address accountability, really testing, learning loss, how we’re going to address the challenges to education going forward. And when people were railing at me for opening schools because kids were going to die in the school buildings, and we did it anyway because the science didn’t indicate that, and certainly, it hasn’t happened.

So, we’ve been open in-person for the most part since school opened in August. And we are pushing the large districts to open as well because we think that’s really important. Pressure is a very important component here. That’s the reason I got up and really just called those school districts out publicly because here’s the thing: Parents want their kids to be at school. And the saddest part from my perspective is that Memphis is the biggest school district that we have. It also has the most number of low-income children who get the greatest negative impacts from being out of the classroom. I mean, these are the kids that have the least access to technology. They have the least resources, the family structures, oftentimes — they’re not there to support the needs of them. And so, these are the kids that are sitting at home, and the negative impacts on these children is staggering. Calling that out, publicly talking about why parents want their kids to be in school, has already begun.

Hmmmmm…fortunately Memphis is not rolling over for this egregious attack and have already mounted their counter-attack.

This is a good place to stop for today.

If you’ve got time and are looking for a smile, check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we work to accentuate the positive.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy. Now more than ever your continued support is vital.

If you are interested, I’m now sharing posts via email through Substack. This is a new foray for me and an effort to increase coverage. ‘ll be offering free and paid subscriptions. Paid subscriptions will receive additional materials as they become available. We’ll see how it goes.

If you wish to join the rank of donors, you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated, especially this time of year when my contracted work is a little slow. Not begging, just saying.

Mark Lee, Alleged Student-Harassing Overton County Teacher, Sues Accusers

If you’ve been follering us for any amount of time you’ve likely seen us talk about OVERTON COUNTY teacher Mark Lee, who taught at Livingston Academy until his recent 90-day suspension without pay and eventual transfer – which was supposedly tied to years worth of sexual harassment allegations by multiple students stretching back to 2003. (He’s tenured, so he’s likely back on payroll now)

Here’s our interview with 2 of the girls and their mothers:

It was also discussed at an Overton County school board meeting, during which multiple parents expressed their disgust that the school board had done little to protect the girls, and in fact had plans to transfer Lee to an elementary school until people hollered about it – yes seriously.

There was also talk of him being placed at an Alternative School, which is almost worse because that’s often where the most vulnerable students end up.

The District Attorney Bryan Dunavant, who we spoke with, says he didn’t bring charges against Lee because he had no proof of physical touching (although one of the girls says he rubbed his head on her stomach). He also told us he “wouldn’t want his daughter in Lee’s class.

A mother of another one of the alleged sexual harassment victims of the LIVINGSTON ACADEMY teacher (Mark Lee) in OVERTON COUNTY Says she spoke up since 2017, nobody listened. Multiple girls signed sworn affidavits on that occasion, including a cop’s daughter.

Lee is now suing the families and those who have stood up for them for “damages arising out of the defendants’ pattern of intentional, malicious, tortious false and defamatory statements impugning the plaintiffs’ character and reputation and published to the world on social media” as well as “invasion of privacy”.

This guy has some nerve.

HERE IS THE LAWSUIT if you’d like to read it. It includes the posts below, which it cites as defamation.

As a reminder, the director of schools suspended him for 90 days related to all of this.

If you or anyone you know has stories about Lee, or witnessed any of his behavior, feel free to holler at us on social media or at thetnholler@gmail.com – and follow The Cookeville Holler for developments

Bill Lee’s COVID19 Response Failure

Our Governor’s weak, feckless response to COVID19 is costing lives. He can’t name a single expert that supports his decision to reopen schools. They don’t have the testing ability to follow CDC guidelines, yet Lee says they are “safely” reopening schools (“to the degree that it’s possible”). His administration has dragged its feet with regard to transparency throughout this crisis, and lab turnaround times are still severely lagging, putting more lives at risk.

And yet the special session called for the week of August 10th will be focusing on weakening worker protections within the context of COVID19 and further criminalizing the protesters who have been occupying the plaza outside the State Capitol. They will also be strategizing ways to expand telehealth, which is the one positive aspect of the upcoming special session.

Watch the videos below to see just where our Governor’s priorities lie:

“I CRY OVER THIS” — “Frustrated” & “Helpless” TN Leg Assistants Discuss TN’s UNEMPLOYMENT NIGHTMARES Crisis

As we and many others have reported, thousands of Tennesseans have been unable to access unemployment even since the beginning of the pandemic. The stories have been nothing short of heartbreaking.

The Holler has obtained emails from assistants at the Tennessee legislature where they discuss the “helpless” and “frustrated” feelings of not being able to help their constituents.

The emails are below. We’ve removed their names and identifying phrases to protect their anonymity.

This is an awful situation, and did not have to happen. Tennessee and Governor Lee have had plenty of time to fix this. The time for excuses has long since passed.

From:
Sent:
To: Staff
Subject: unemployment

Hey guys, I’ve hesitated to send out an email regarding unemployment issues, but I’ve talked to several assistants who are more than frustrated as I am, that more isn’t being done.  Some of our constituents have been told there is a glitch in the system, but that was two months ago.  Is there still a glitch in the system?  If so, why?  I know I, as has everyone here, spoken to so many broken people, from some losing their businesses, to going to a food bank for food for the first time in their lives, and they want answers, too.

Is anyone getting their claims done in a timely manner?  If so, I would love to know your secret.  We have addressed these concerns to some in the Administration, and we’ve been placated for a time being or not answered at all.  Are any of you experiencing the same thing?

I understand they hired more people, but just to answer phones and tell folks they just have to wait, which is no help at all.  If any of you have any suggestions or ideas to share on how to get a better response or any response at all from the department, I would love to know them.  In my 35 years up here, I haven’t seen it so bad that we can’t even get an acknowledgement of our requests and a sincere pledge to fix what is wrong.

Since we can’t mingle as we used to and see one another, this is the only way I know to get a feeling of how everyone is doing with this.  Thanks for listening even if you don’t have an answer.

 

From: 
Date: 
To: 
Subject: RE: unemployment

I have no secret or tips to give.  My cases are just like yours.  All over the place with no rhyme nor reason as to why one is being paid before another. I know some cases are more difficult, but I haven’t seen that as a factor as some hard cases are getting paid, and some standard cases are not.

I did let the Gov’s office know that we do not consistently get a confirmation email, so when the person calls back to say they haven’t heard anything, I have no choice but to file a new ticket as I do not have an email to respond to or a number to call or anything.

I’m feeling pretty useless, too.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: Re: unemployment

I also have so secrets, but I can build off of what — said:

Putting in multiple tickets: “Please remember that submitting multiple tickets for a constituent doesn’t speed up the process, but instead slows it down for the others who are waiting for a call. I see that there have been three different tickets opened up for him and that two of those came after he had been in contact with the department.”

Anytime I have a question about multiple tickets I email __ with an update, even though I get a response days later. When submitting tickets you can see a green confirmation email then it has been submitted. The only issues I have seen is if you don’t have SSN then it doesn’t submit properly, so I change it to 1234, or 4321.

I also use consistent messaging for every unemployment issue that helps:

We have submitted a request in to have someone contact you. Granted they are receiving 100’s of requests a day, so it could take a while. On average, all of the claims are being responded to in 10 – 14 business days. If you have not received any communication in 10 days, please call the office at 615-741-1000 and we will see if we know more information.

Someone from the unemployment office will be contacting you, so please answer unknown numbers. You will also receive an email from legislative request that will recap your claim. Responding to that email will allow the unemployment office and myself see, so if you see anything you would like to add or change.

Just a reminder, it is not worth your time to be placed on hold and calling the unemployment office, the quickest response is by having me put in a ticket for you. Lastly, submitting multiple tickets (especially with multiple people) will delay your response, so please be patient. I promise, someone is working on it.

I use consistent messaging so that they stop reaching out to different offices to try and get different responses.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

Hello all, this is just a little to add to some of what everyone else is dealing with:

When I do get a call, I ask if that person has contacted another legislator and advise them creating multiple tickets will not help- I inquire if they have continued to recertify weekly and I advise them to keep their cell phone with them at all times and answer any unknown numbers. I also ask if they have submitted all their wage information and make sure they follow up and be sure the department has all the documents they need to process the claim.  It appears that many cases that were submitted in mid -April for some reason seemed to have more issues than some of the others and  I also seem to have more issues with small business operators for some reasons- such as more calls related to hair dressers and the like and I’m not sure why.

As for the ones who are concerned about losing their homes, utilities getting cut off, etc- I remind them that many lenders made pledges during this crisis that they would not foreclose and many would not charge late charges. I have found that the companies will not offer this service but if the constituent reaches out and asks for more assistance, usually they will receive that. I have offered to contact lenders or landlords on their behalf, contacted utility companies for them, I have loaned one family money because they did not even have enough money for gas or groceries and they had small children- we have offered to pick up food boxes for families, and at one point I even reached out to the department and offered to take an hour or two out of my day to pitch and help them submit claims if needed.  I have not heard back from our liaison of the department at all.

I think we all understand we have more claims than ever and the Department is very busy.  At this point though, it is extremely frustrating when, like some of you, I have families who filed in March and to date still have not received anything. I have some whose legislative tickets went in four to six weeks ago and that constituent still hasn’t received a phone call. Sometimes we get a confirmation email and sometimes we don’t.  It is very embarrassing to not be able to answer any of their questions and not to be able to give them a date when someone might call them back.  Also, I have real concerns since this is an election year that our members are going to get out on the campaign trail and they may lose because the constituents feel like we have not been able to represent them very well, despite our diligence and multiple attempts to do so.

If anyone needs any resources that are helpful, let me know and I’m happy to try to share some if I have them.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

My apologies-  I meant to send this from my email, not Rep. ____. To add a little more to some of the notes though…

We are also dealing with many cases that might receive one-two weeks of unemployment and then for some reason we are finding cases closed before resolution.

We also are having more problems with self-employed claims.

Also, we have a great deal of constituents who may have made an initial mistake in entering their claim during the “glitch in the system” era, who may just have a simple question but they are unable to reach anyone to help them navigate through the process.

Thanks to everyone for the input. It is very much appreciated.

Everyone hang in there. Hopefully we will all get through this together.  Hugs to all.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: Re: unemployment

​For some of my constituents that are down to their last dime, I suggest they call a local church (food pantry) or the Am. Red Cross.

I had one constituent sing her song sad song: “Well, it’s not that.”  Okay, another suggestion, “Well, it’s not that.”  After about 3 more suggestions, I suggested that it might be time for her to find a job at the grocery until her permanent job returns.  “Well, I can’t do that.”  As suspected, she wanted me to do all the work for her and she wanted me to give her a hand-out.  After the grocery suggestion, the daily (sometimes multiples in a day) ceased.

My heart breaks for a lot of these constituents and I have only had one like this but sometimes it just takes one.

I look forward to seeing you all soon!

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

OMG.  NONE of the “sad songs” I’ve heard have been anything less than heartbreaking. I cry over this sometimes.  Wow. Just wow.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

I agree. Sometimes I don’t want to answer the phone because I know it’s one more single mother being evicted or a single father going to the food bank for the first time in his life or a man selling all his tools of his trade to make ends meet.  And I’ve had a few who’ve had their electricity cut off.  I’ve referred them to everyone I know and even sent a Kroger gift card to one gentleman.  I can’t do that for everyone of course, and I know some others who’ve done the same thing up here.  And then I feel guilty and blessed because I have a job during this horrible time, as well.  I’ve only had one constituent out of a hundred or more who has lied to me that I know of, even so, I still trust as I know all of you do.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: Re: unemployment

​I’ve received several emails this morning stating that constituents received a call that rang once, hung up, and then had a generic “Hello, I attempted to call you and no one answered. Our specialist team will reach out and try to call you again very soon” email sent to them. This concerns me greatly because this counts as one of the agent’s 3 attempts to reach our constituents. Something must be done about this “one ring/hangup” approach because I’m hearing the same story too often for it to be a coincidence.

Is anyone else having this problem – or are my constituent cases the only ones who are being treated this way?

Thank you!

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

I’ve had several tell me their phone never rang and there was no evidence of a call on their call history.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: Re: unemployment

​YES! That as well. I don’t understand why this is happening.

 

From: 

Subject: RE: unemployment

Date: 

To: 

I’ve had several say the same. I tell them that if they send you an email to respond back to the email with a good time to reach them. I don’t know if that works but I email zendesk back with the time that the constituent has given me is a good time. That way we are on the same page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOV. LEE’S WILDLY HYPOCRITICAL “RACE, JUSTICE, EQUALITY” EMAIL TO STATE EMPLOYEES

A state employee has forwarded us an email that apparently just went out to all state employees from Governor lee that touches on “race, justice, and equality”.

We’ve included it below in its entirety.

In it, Lee claims he’s “engaging with minority leaders”, yet he has blockaded a public plaza and turned his troopers the protestors who have been sleeping outside the capitol for 10 days straight. Dozens of peaceful protestors have been arrested, and JUST TODAY his sent his troopers after them for no reason yet again.

He also claims to care about “serving” the minority community… yet he won’t support removing the KKK GRAND WIZARD BUST from the capitol, and just chickened out of ending KKK GRAND WIZARD DAY, which he promised to do.

Not only that, but his party just KILLED AN AMENDMENT that would’ve given ALL state employees the same raise he himself is scheduled to get in this next budget – instead choosing to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the “RAINY DAY FUND” which already has over $1 BILLION in it.

These are the facts.

Below is the email in its entirety, and below that is a note from the state employee who sent it, which we ask you to read as well.

Here’s the key section from Lee’s email:

“Our goal is not only to create a safe work environment but also an environment where employees thrive. Events over the last few weeks have spurred many conversations in our country around race, justice and equality. I am using this time to further engage with minority leaders and faith leaders to evaluate just how we are serving every Tennessean and how we can improve.

I have asked Commissioner Williams and the Tennessee Department of Human Resources to build a framework for strengthening efforts around the minority experience in our workplace. This is an opportunity to ensure working with the State of Tennessee is an edifying and equitable experience for every single employee who has chosen the calling of public service.

Despite the uncertainty of the times, I know that our state’s workforce is highly equipped for this season. Maria and I are thankful to serve with you and I hope to be able to resume department visits, soon.”

And here are the thoughts of the state employee:

“These are the thoughts I cannot let go of today since reading that email. Who are these minority leaders he’s expecting to engage with, if not the folks that have been waiting peacefully outside the Capitol for weeks?

How can working at the State ever be an “edifying and equitable experience” if being a Tennessean isn’t one?

As a State employee one of my objective duties set by the Governor’s office is to improve safety. We learn about and apply new, proven safety tactics as soon as we hear about them so we can save more lives.

Why isn’t the Governor also guided by this principle when people are outside his office chanting “I can’t breathe”?

I don’t want HR to make an “effort around the minority experience”. I want systemic changes that can start with decisions from the Governor that will save lives.

Well said. To let Lee know how you feel, Holler at him HERE.

P.S.

Lee is handpicking who he meets with. He has been running and hiding from black voters…

…and ignoring black legislators pleading for inclusion.

 

Mitchell’s Bill To Kill Lee’s Vouchers Dies

WATCH: “Delete the voucher program… it’s ILLEGAL… we’re wasting the courts’ time with something we know is wrong.”

Bo Mitchell’s bill to kill Gov. Lee’s “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” private school vouchers fails for lack of a second.
(Thanks to: Byrd, Moody, Dunn, White, Deberry, Cochran)

TODAY’S HOLLER: Burchett’s Anti-Science Fearmongering, Lee’s Unemployment Nightmares

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We hope you’re all having a good Memorial Day Weekend.
Today we remember the brave Americans we’ve lost to our wars,
and pray for those we’ve lost and continue to lose to the war on science.

TODAY’S HOLLER:

REP. TIM BURCHETT’S ANTI-SCIENCE CONTACT TRACING FEARMONGERING:  This weekend actual sitting TN GOP Congressman Tim Burchett in Knoxville argued against contact tracing health experts say could save lives… because of empty fearmongering tinfoil hat nonsense👇🏽

TN Has just 25% of the recommended CONTACT TRACERS. ‬That’s 1500 jobs not filled. ‬
‪1500 people not saving lives. As Gov. Bill Lee sleeps at the wheel and Rep. Burchett fearmongers, more people are out of work… and more will get sick and die. ‬

PSA: If you think laws that force girls/women to carry a rapist’s baby to term are good, but programs that could help save lives during a deadly pandemic are “government overreach”, it might be time to re-think some things.

GOV. LEE’S TN UNEMPLOYMENT NIGHTMARES CONTINUE: “I have a premature baby at home and I can’t even afford preemies right now.” ‬– One of many emotional stories at the TN House Democratic Caucus UNEMPLOYMENT NIGHTMARES Town hall.‬ ‪Thousands of struggling Tennesseans have been waiting for benefits since MARCH. Non-Facebook Link

ALSO:

-‪Trump Education Secretary BETSY DEVOS is blatant about using the virus to advance her public school-harming private school agenda by steering money to them. ‬And Gov. Lee is doing it with her.

Even Lamar thinks it’s wrong.

-Thousands dead.‬ Millions unemployed. ‬Billions lost. ‬Still, Gov. Lee will NOT give up his “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” private school vouchers. ‬

-This is a woman flipping off Trump’s motorcade as he heads to play golf in Virginia… the last woman that did this quickly became an elected official.

-‪Speaking of which, here’s our CARTOON OF THE DAY 😢‬

-‪100,000 dead & an economic depression because of a failure to act… but sure fly those banners buddy. ‬(They’re being MADE IN CHINA by the way)

-Meanwhile, this is what’s going on in the Ozarks. Unreal. Also, pretty grross even without a Pandemic. Non-Facebook Link

STUDY: 24 states still have “uncontrolled virus spread” ‬ — Yes, Tennessee is 1 of them.

-One big difference between Biden and Trump: Biden apologizes.

-WATCH Fox’s Steve Doocy say “the government won’t let” Fox hosts be together in studio… then immediately walk it back and encourages people to work from home if they can.🧐‬–WATCH 😷 WHAT 😷 THEY 😷 DO, NOT 😷 WHAT 😷 THEY 😷 SAY‬. Non-Facebook Link

A NIKE warehouse in MEMPHIS turned away health department inspectors after a worker died… now 20+ workers have tested positive. Nike has some explaining to do.

-‪Republicans are now LITERALLY SUING to stop people from voting safely 🚨🇺🇸‬ 🗳

-‪Colorado’s Secretary of State calling Trump on his vote-suppressing lies👇🏽🤥🤥🤥🤥🤥‬

Voter fraud is not a thing. Voter suppression is.
Trump votes by mail. Your elected officials vote by mail. The military. The elderly.
Vile Truth: Republicans are using the virus and putting you at risk as an excuse to cling to power.

The Tennessean’s David Plazas: “VOTE BY MAIL IS SAFER AND MORE RELIABLE THAN EVER” and dispenses of the notion that voter fraud is real (10 cases in TN in FIFTEEN YEARS… mostly perpetrated by ELECTION OFFICIALS). ‬Again: GOP Voter suppression is very real though.‬

FOX’S CHRIS WALLACE: “You told us 60,000 would die. We’re almost over 100,000. What happened?”
DR. BIRX: *Rambles for 2 minutes without saying anything* Non-Facebook Link

TN GOP REP. BRUCE GRIFFEY doesn’t like loud chanting at the TN Capitol to have the STATUE OF THE FIRST KKK GRAND WIZARD REMOVED… and thinks protestors should be subject to arrest. 🤔‬ So much for “constitutionalists”.

-Trump retweeted horrific tweets calling a former first lady a “skank” and mocking Stacy Abrams’ weight. Some are angry we’re amplifying these, but we feel it’s important to remind any fence-sitters what a terrible human being this man is.

A New Biden ad eviscerates Trump for being too “weak”, “scared”, “indecisive”, and concerned with his own re-election to lead during the pandemic. Non-Facebook link

-‪PANDEMIC LESSON: We’re only as healthy as the sickest among us. ‬There are no MORAL reasons to care for uninsured folks suffering only from this particular virus, only POLITICAL ones… ‬Health care should be a RIGHT, not a PRIVILEGE. #ExpandMedicaidTN #MedicareForAll ‬

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GRAPHIC OF THE DAY: “A Downward Trend?”

Lee says we’re in a “downward trend”, the data, Vandy experts, and Fox’s Chris Wallace disagree.

ANOTHER “L” FOR LEE: GOV’S #1 PRIORITY (VOUCHERS) DECLARED “UNCONSTITUTIONAL”

If you’ve been following us for any amount of time hopefully you have some context on this, but just in case, here’s a quick rundown of how we got to this point…

Governor Lee made public school-harming private school vouchers his #1 priority coming into office.

Not fixing our public schools, which get an “F” for funding. Not fixing health care, which has us at #1 in Medical bankruptcies & rural hospital closures per capita, which could easily be addressed by expanding medicaid and accepting the $1 BILLION of OUR OWN TAX DOLLARS earmarked for us every year.

Nope. Vouchers.

Lee wants to see MILLIONS of public school funds steered to private (often religious/Christian) schools. To get it passed, he had the help of Trump Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, who is on record saying her agenda is to “Advance God’s Kingdom” by raiding the public school war chest in America, and disgraced former speaker Glen Casada, who held the tie vote open for 35 minutes until he finally coerced Rep. Jason Zachary of Knoxville into flipping his vote and selling out Tennessee’s public schools.

To be clear, NONE of the rural reps wanted vouchers for their own districts. They only wanted to impose them on Nashville and Memphis and their more diverse student bodies… even though many admitted they wouldn’t want that done to their districts.

The rollout was equally problematic. The Tennessee Dept. of Education handed out an expensive no-bid contract for more than the amount that was allocated to the program, and Lee intentionally sped up the rollout an extra year for no apparent reason other than impatience. Many Republican representatives began to regret their votes for the bill, including TN GOP House Caucus leader Jeremy Faison. 

There were also rumors of an FBI investigation, the offering of military promotions, the list goes on… which brings us to last night, when the program was finally declared “unconstitutional” by a court after Shelby & Davidson counties sued.

Another L for Lee.

It isn’t over. There will be challenges. But Lee’s losing streak in the courts continues, a natural extension of a radical right agenda in a GOP supermajority state where the only backstop the constitution has is the judicial branch. Thankfully, for now, it seems to be holding up.

HERE WERE SOME REACTIONS:

 

Of course, not everyone is thrilled. Senator Brian Kelsey makes it clear there will be appeals.