Posts

WHY DID TN ED COMMISH SCHWINN LEAVE HER HUSBAND’S EMPLOYER OFF HER DISCLOSURE?

This week some eagle-eyed Hollerers pointed out TN Ed Commissioner Penny Schwinn left TNTP, the company where her husband works, off of her source of income disclosure.

She listed it last year, but not this year, despite the fact that he remains on their website as a “Leadership Coach”.

This is especially noteworthy since TNTP was a recipient of an $16 MILLION contract from the Tennessee Education Department, a department Schwinn is in charge of… a fact that was not lost on legislators who raised the “Conflict of Schwinnterest” issue in committee last session.

Was leaving TNTP off the disclosure an oversight on Penny’s part? Was it intentional? Are they no longer married? Is he no longer at the company?

These are questions someone should ask, and we will next time we see her.

It’s worth noting that Schwinn has a history of conflicts of interest and self-dealing. They’ve been hallmarks of her career, showing up in both Delaware and Texas, her stops along the way since starting a charter school in Sacramento. She also ran for school board in Sacramento, where she was supported by Michelle Rhee, whose charters lobbyist organization 50 CAN now is affiliated with charter school lobbyist Victor Evans at Tennessee Can, who is now vocally pushing through the new TISA funding overhaul plan from Governor Lee, even standing with him at press conferences.

Victor does NOT want to talk to us about the connection between Michelle Rhee at his parent company and Schwinn, no matter how hard we try.

Shwinn is the tip of the spear for TISA, Lee’s ed funding overhaul plan, which will be the talk of the town this week as it appears the Tennessee legislature (mostly Republican) will pass it.

Supporters say TISA will tie funding to “students rather than systems”. Detractors say it really doesn’t do that to the extent Lee says it will, and that it will ultimately harm public schools by teeing up further privatization, triggering inevitable property tax hikes in counties around the state and enabling even more cronyism and political back-scratching by an administration that has repeatedly engorged itself on such things.

It seems to us how trusting you are of Penny Schwinn and her boss Bill Lee to do the right thing for the people of Tennessee rather than for themselves should play a big part in how anyone feels about TISA as a way to fund the education of our children going forward. And making sure they’re honest on their disclosures is part of that.

To be clear, almost everyone seems to agree the BEP needs to change, and since education in  Tennessee has not been fully funded (we’re at the bottom in per pupil spending) adding $1 BILLION to education is a good thing, something Democrats have been calling for for years.

But it’s important to make the distinction that the extra $1 BILLION has nothing to do with TISA. That $1 BILLION could be added to education regardless of the funding formula. What Lee has done is essentially hold our kids hostage, saying he won’t agree to adding that money unless he gets his formula overhaul.

That in itself is reason for skepticism, since we know what Lee wants, ultimately, is education privatization, which was his first focus upon taking office. Back then it was private school vouchers, which were held up in court as unconstitutional because they only focused on Memphis & Nashville (Republican legislators across the state didn’t want those vouchers anywhere near their own counties, no sir. How great they must think they really are!)

Now Lee has turned his attention to charter schools – asking right-wing profiteers at Hillsdale to bring 100 schools to Tennessee – and this education funding overhaul, which may very well amount to the voucherization of our entire public education system. Ohio passed a plan like this, and is now seeing the next phase of the operation where charter schools are swooping in to take that “student-based funding” to for-profit, ideological, and even religious schools.

Ultimately where you come down on TISA amounts to how much trust you have for Lee and his education commissioner Penny Schwinn, who has a long history of conflicts of interest, and has a lengthy charter schools background charter lobbyists don’t seem to want to talk about.

We’re curious why Schwinn’s company wasn’t on her disclosure after receiving a $16 MILLION contract from the ed department she runs, but more importantly we hope we aren’t looking back in a few years at this funding overhaul she’s spearheading as the moment public education in Tennessee fell off a cliff… right into the pockets of people who put money ahead of kids.

FOLLOW THE MONEY: ORGS BACKING LEE’S ED FUNDING PLAN GET $$ FROM GATES FOUNDATION

Today a number of organizations have come out in support of Governor Lee’s education funding (privatization) overhaul, which many public school advocates say will be inadequate, bad for public schools and help education privatization efforts in the long run.

Lee will boast of their support just in time to push his plan through key committees and onto the floors of the house and senate, but what he won’t mention are the organizations involved with that alliance that DID NOT SIGN ON, and how most of the ones that did have one common thread: THEY GET A LOT OF MONEY FROM THE GATES FOUNDATION, which has a heavy interest in getting this funding

Below is a number of tweets by TC Weber, public school advocate, pointing out how many of these organizations – including the NAACP, Memphis Education Fund, Tennessee PTA, Tennessee Department of Education, Sycamore Institute, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, Knox Education Foundation, Sycamore Institute, and even Chalkbeat, the journalists who cover this tuff – have received HUGE SUMS OF MONEY from the Gates Foundation, which is a big part of the push for Lee’s funding overhaul:

 

FOLLOW THE MONEY.

 

 

INTERVIEW: ED FUNDING OVERHAUL BILL SPONSOR REP. MARK WHITE

We spoke with Rep. Mark White for 10 minutes about charter schools and Governor Lee’s potentially poisonous ed funding overhaul.

TN STUDENTS HELP KILL BOOK BAN & LIBRARIAN CRIMINALIZATION BILL

Baum Eliminates Local Control of Charter School Recruitment (After Lying About His Bill)

INTERVIEW: TN Ed Commish Penny Schwinn on the Charter Schools Flood & Funding Formula

After a press conference to introduce the new plan to overhaul how public education is funded in Tennessee, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn sat down with us for 5 minutes to talk to us about the concerns many are having that Lee’s true intentions are to privatize the public education system by flooding Tennessee with charter schools and allowing public dollars to flow to the private entities that run them.

Here’s Holler editor Justin Kanew’s op-ed in the Tennessean about that “Hillsdale Heist” this week.

Our question was simple: Can Governor Lee promise that the funding overhaul paired with the state charter approval board overriding local school board decisions about charter schools will not lead to LESS funding for traditional public schools in the long run?

They very clearly are making no guarantees about this. Governor Lee abruptly left the press conference when we asked, instead repeating their line that “charter schools are public schools”, which they are not. Charter schools are only public in that they receive public dollars, but just because something receives public dollars doesn’t make it a public entity – just ask every single defense department contractor.

This is an issue that will keep coming up as Governor Lee continues to use it as an excuse to funnel public dollars to the private, ideologically-driven (and yes religiously-driven) entities he is inviting to bring HUNDREDS of charters to Tennessee.

We have been trying to get Lee and Schwinn to talk to us about this. To her credit, Schwinn finally did sit down with us. Below is that conversation in its entirety – but the basic gist is Schwinn is insistent the new funding formula is separate from the charter school influx, and the Lee administration is adamant that charter schools are public schools, and therefore they do not intend to put a cap on how much funding can flow to them, or how many students can leave public schools to go there (with the “student based funding formula” helping the money follow them).

Many advocates feel it all amounts to a death knell for Tennessee public schools, which are already towards the bottom of the country both in terms of performance and funding.

A 2019 U.S. Department of Education study found that there was no meaningful difference between the eighth graders in charter schools and public schools when it came to math or English proficiency, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called “the nation’s report card.”

If you agree that the privatization/voucherization of our public education system is not in the best interest of ALL of our kids, the time to speak up against this is now.

Here’s our full conversation with TN Ed Dept Commissioner Penny Schwinn:

SINGER JOHN RICH COMPARES TEACHERS & LIBRARIANS TO PEDOPHILES (and owes them an apology)

On Thursday, singer John Rich showed up at the Tennessee state legislature to testify on behalf of Rep. Scott Cepicky’s HB 1944, a bill to crack down on library books Scott and his friends feel violate the definition of “obscenity”, which appears to vary from state to state and from legislator to legislator.

The Tennessee Library Association has spoken out against this bill. So have many teachers and parents. But it has a lot of support from those Moms For Ignorance aka Bored Moms for Liberty (whose Williamson County chapter was just scorched to the ground by a Republican school board member this week).

It also has the support of John Rich, who has been very outspoken about the issue of obscene library books and the curriculum, despite the fact that his kids go to an expensive private school, and despite the fact that his big hit was “SAVE A HORSE, RIDE A COWBOY”, with a music video featuring women dancing provocatively on a bridge in Nashville.

Rich took to the podium during the committee meeting and honed in on one point in particular, reading the legal definition of “Grooming”, saying that he only sees one difference between library books having what he deems to be sexual content in them and pedophiles in white vans luring kids in to show them sexually illicit content: “Kids can run away from the guy with the van.”

Here’s the VIDEO:

Never mind that teachers and librarians are trained to educate kids. Never mind that pedophiles are actually out to physically harm children. Never mind that there’s a state rep named David Byrd STILL in the Tennessee legislature who has apologized on tape to 1 of 3 women who say he sexually abused them when they were on his high school basketball team in Wayne County, and these same Republicans still continue to serve with him every day without saying a damn thing.

None of that matters to Rich. Nor, apparently, do the feelings of librarians and educators in our state, who had to be horrified by being compared to “groomers” and pedophiles in white vans.

What a disgrace.

He owes them an apology, as do the legislators who brought him there that day (hi Scott Cepicky).

Last week at a Williamson County works session the head of the WCEA gave a tearful speech saying teachers in Tennessee feel attacked these days, and that it feels like “death by 1000 cuts”.

And understandably so. Rich and the bored moms attacking them over books is just a small part of a much bigger attack on our public schools intended to help Governor Lee and his co-conspirators overhaul our public education funding system to steer billions of taxpayer dollars to privately run charter schools to fill kids with their moral , political, and yes religious ideologies.

READ Holler founder Justin Kanew’s op-ed in the Tennessean that lays it all out.

It’s a heist happening right before our eyes. Now is the time to speak up – not only against HB 1944, but also against the many bills intended to help privatize and voucherize our public education system, even against the will of local school boards.

Our librarians, and our schools, are under attack. Who will defend them?

HILLSDALE PREZ: “GOV. LEE ASKED FOR 100 TN CHARTER SCHOOLS”

This week at the propaganda-filled State of the State Governor Lee went on a diatribe about “informed patriotism”, saying schools have become “centers of anti-American thought” it would be a priority of his to make sure Tennessee kids learn “unbiased” history – by which he meant very biased history viewed only through his own white, Confederate-uniform-in-college-wearing prism.

To *help* TN kids learn that Deformed Patriotism, Lee said he was going to hire HILLSDALE COLLEGE, a Christian school in Michigan headed up by Larry Arnn, who Trump appointed to lead his “1776 Commission” to write a report to county the harsh truths of the 161 Project. (the first thing Biden did was unpublish its whitewashing view of our history… Arnn once made headlines for calling minority students “dark ones”)

Lee’s speech contained few details about the contract, but we’ve since uncovered some audio from a meeting in FRANKLIN, TN in September of last year (see below) when Arnn revealed that Governor Lee had asked him to bring 100 CHARTER SCHOOLS (!) to Tennessee.

Arnn says he only promised to deliver 50.

We know from sources that charter school applications have already been submitted in WILLIAMSON and MONTGOMERY Counties at least – possibly more.

This is more evidence that Governor Lee is no friend to public schools. The $1 BILLION in new funding he promised our public schools is coming with strings, and the goal is clearly to fund a network of private Christian schools in Tennessee, where he can steer our money to through his vouchers – and the state-level charter school approval board he has rigged to overrule local officials that may not want charters in their area is clearly also part of the plan.

This is an attack on public schools. All of it. From the book censorship, to history-whitewashing, threatening teachers, the mask fight, vouchers, Lee’s charter program…

There is a LOT of money in education, and they’re coming for it.

Are you paying attention yet?

Here’s the part of Lee’s speech we’re referring to:

TN ED REPORT: IS SEXTON SERIOUS?

IS SEXTON SERIOUS?

House Speaker Cameron Sexton offered some concerning commentary on school funding ahead of an expected announcement this month on Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed changes to the state’s school funding formula (BEP).

Meghan Mangrum highlighted the comments in an article published in the Citizen-Tribune out of Morristown:

It seems the Speaker is not all that familiar with how schools actually work. The suggestion he makes here is that teachers and schools lack the proper incentive system. That is, schools fail students because there’s no threat of losing money no matter the outcome. This reflects a fairly depressing view of humanity. Further, it suggests that Sexton believes that teachers are currently “holding back” simply because they don’t fear punishment.

If only a punishment-based incentive system were in force, Tennessee teachers in every school system would rapidly accelerate learning, Sexton seems to be saying.

This type of thinking is especially alarming as the state considers revamping the school funding formula. Gov. Lee has promised a “student-centered” approach but has also stopped short of calling for more overall spending.

Here’s an analogy that might help explain the flaw in Sexton’s approach. UT Football has experienced a bit of a resurgence in recent years, but most fans would admit the last decade has been pretty rough. Under Sexton’s approach, the right answer is to offer less resources to the football program and then that will motivate them to get better and thus “earn” better resources. Want 10+ wins each season? Deduct $100,000 from the coach’s pay for each win under 10. Then, when the team only wins 6 or 7 games, take some more cash away so that they’ll be fired up to get after it next season. Maybe if the defense has a really bad game, the next game they could play without helmets? Surely, the proper punishment-based incentive will yield the desired results.

Of course, some have speculated that the whole movement on the part of Lee to change the BEP is really about a backdoor path to school vouchers:

In any event, I’m sure teachers across the state are working hard and polishing off all that knowledge they’ve been holding back thanks to the threat of lost resources made by Sexton. Once the punishment-based BEP formula is in place, I’m sure only good things will happen. In fact, I bet such a system will cause a rapid influx of people into the teaching profession in Tennessee – if only policymakers in previous years had thought of such a plan, Tennessee would be at the top of the nation by now.

Here’s a piece on merit pay that addresses (to some degree) the type of incentive plan Sexton may be envisioning:

And, here’s a piece that makes the argument for an across-the-board increase in school funding:

Finally, a note on the importance of raising teacher pay – not simply as a means of addressing the teacher shortage but also as a key factor in improving student achievement:

When teachers get paid more, students do better. In one study, a 10% increase in teacher pay was estimated to produce a 5 to 10% increase in student performance. Teacher pay also has long-term benefits for students. A 10% increase in per-pupil spending for each of the 12 years of education results in students completing more education, having 7% higher wages, and having a reduced rate of adult poverty. These benefits are even greater for families who are in poverty.

pexels-photo-164527.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

CHATTANOOGA KID VS. MOMS FOR CENSORSHIP

WATCH: “FILTERING HISTORY IS MUCH MORE DESTRUCTIVE TO OUR GROWING MINDS.” As radical Moms For Liberty and board member Rhonda Thurman force Hamilton County Schools to create a committee to censor library books (to censor MLK, other black authors) — A WISE 5TH GRADER PUSHES BACK.