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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.

GEORGIA’S GOV. KEMP TO SIGN GAS TAX PAUSE GOV. LEE WOULDN’T

Last week Tennessee Democratic representatives Bo Mitchell & John Ray Clemmons held a press conference calling for Governor Lee to impose a 90-day gas tax moratorium to help Tennesseans with the pain of higher gas prices – which is a global issue Republicans have incorrectly blamed on Biden. (Oil production is UP under Biden, so the idea that he’s choking off supply is ridiculous on its face)

By some calculations the state gas tax moratorium would mean Tennesseans keep hundreds of millions of dollars they would’ve otherwise had to spend at the pump. Since Governor Lee regularly brags about the BILLIONS in surplus funds Tennessee has, partly because we’re #1 in hoarding funds intended for poor folks, it would seem we could’ve handled the moratorium – but Lee has said he has no plans to implement it.

Lee’s exact quote:

“We’ll look at proposals, but what we need to do—and I’ve been working with governors across the country—is to reach out to the federal administration and say ‘Here’s what needs to be done. We need to reinstitute energy policies that take the burden off of Americans for higher energy prices.”

Anyone who follows this administrations knows that’s Lee Speak for saying he won’t do anything.

That decision looks even more heartless now that a similar measure has passed UNANIMOUSLY in Georgia, and their Republican governor is planning to sign it right away, giving them a gas tax break through May, and saving their citizens $300-$400 million by some estimates.

From the Athens Banner-Herald:

The Georgia Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday temporarily suspending the state sales tax on gasoline, but not before a lengthy debate over who is to blame for record-high pump prices.

The bill, which the state House of Representatives passed last week, now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

The governor and lawmakers acted after gas prices surged following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Suspension of the tax will save Georgians 29.1 cents per gallon of gasoline, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said before Thursday’s vote.

“The 29 cents is not going to completely solve the problem,” he said. “But it’s a start and a statement.”
It UNANIMOUSLY passed the house & senate in Georgia… but Lee won’t even consider it?
With Tennessee failing to expand Medicaid even as we lead in rural hospital closures per capita and medical bankruptcies, and slashing unemployment benefits even as legislators gave themselves raises, and refusing to raise the minimum wage, or give people paid leave… this is yet another example of Governor Lee and this Republican supermajority putting the people last.

EXPLAINED: GOV. LEE’S “STUDENT-BASED FUNDING FORMULA” MONEY GRAB

LEE’S NEW PUBLIC SCHOOL MONEY GRAB COMES INTO VIEW

 For months Governor Lee has been touting his new “STUDENT BASED FUNDING FORMULA” which he says will revolutionize how Tennessee funds our public schools. The plan has been very short on details by design, but after the press conference he gave yesterday we now have enough clues to understand what’s really going on.
Previously, Governor Lee did all he could to get private school vouchers passed, even reportedly offering military promotions as bribes to squeak it through the house. Unfortunately for him, the courts held up his unconstitutional plan (SO FAR).Now, instead of steering public dollars to private schools, Lee has begun a partnership with HILLSDALE COLLEGE, a private Christian school in MICHIGAN with close ties to BETSY DEVOS led by Larry Arnn, who Trump appointed to lead his history-whitewashing “1776 Commission” in response to the 1619 Project.

In the State of the State, Lee talked about bringing in Hillsdale to teach our kids to be “informed patriots”, by which he means he wants to fill their heads with propaganda and avoid them learning the the harsh truths of our past.

What Lee didn’t mention in his speech was the fact that he has apparently asked Hillsadale to bring 50-100 CHARTER SCHOOLS to Tennessee, which Arnn mentioned at a meeting in Franklin last September in AUDIO WE UNCOVERED THIS WEEK:

“Governor Lee wanted 100 charter schools in TN.”

When asked about it at a press conference yesterday, Lee did not deny it. He instead leaned into it, saying CHARTER SCHOOLS are a big part of his plan, and repeatedly making a point to call them “PUBLIC” schools – by which he means they’ll be taking our PUBLIC SCHOOL funds.

So instead of strengthening our public schools and funding them properly, Lee is telling us he’s willing to pour another $1 BILLION into our schools BUT ONLY IF WE ADOPT HIS STUDENT-LED FUNDING PROGRAM – which would mean those dollars would follow kids to Charter schools like these Hillsdale schools.

Charters are privately run enterprises. Now Lee thinks he can dodge the accusation of “Steering public funds to private schools” by saying these charter schools are “public schools”, but as someone said recently: Calling charter schools “PUBLIC” because they get public funds is like calling defense contractors public companies.

This has clearly been the plan for a long time. Even the MOMS FOR LIBERTY WILLIAMSON COUNTY CHAIR has been posting about the Hillsdale Charter school planned for Williamson since last year – and we’re told a petition has been pulled in Montgomery county as well.
They want our (underfunded) public school funds to send their kids to what will essentially amount to a publicly-funded private school.

It’s an attack on our public schools. A heist. They’re steering our public school funds towards a network of private schools by another name, run by a Trump loyalist who wants to whitewash our history and fill kids’ heads with propaganda.

And to top it all off, Lee has rigged the charter approval process. So even when communities vote to REJECT these schools, a state board handpicked by the governor can overrule these local decisions.

Worried yet? You should be. Strengthening our public schools should be our top priority. This new “STUDENT-BASED FUNDING FORMULA” SCHEME is just a new way for Governor Lee to steer our public dollars to private companies run by his friends, and he’s using these “PUBLIC” Charter schools as a vessel to do it… and our public schools will suffer.

Florida’s ed commish praised Lee and put it in this distasteful way at Hillsdale College👇🏽WATCH: “YOU CAN’T PUT THE ANIMALS BACK IN THE BARN”😳 – meaning once kids go to a charter school, we have no choice but to keep sending them money because you can’t force them to go back.

OUR QUESTION: Is Gov. Lee’s attempt to use public funds to create a network of private schools (while calling them “public”) even constitutional? Hopefully someone smarter than us can figure that out.

We’ll be here to cover it, and that’s thanks to your support, so Please consider chipping in monthly if you’re not yet doing so, even if it’s just a few bucks – the monthly support truly keeps us going. 

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VIDEO: “THE PEOPLE’S STATE OF THE STATE”

VIDEO of the protestors who showed up to make their disapproval of Governor Lee known at the capitol this week.

 

 

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:

TODAY’S HOLLER: TRUMP VS. HIS BASE, GOV. LEE COOL WITH GUNS ON PLANES

TRUMP VS. HIS OWN BASE
When the former president revealed to Bill O’Reilly that he was in fact vaccinated and boosted (as are ALL the Fox News hosts who rail against the vaccine every night), and did his best to take credit for the rollout, his base was very upset. They can forgive insurrection against the country, stealing from his own charity, cheating on his pregnant wife, trying to overturn the election, and generally being the most corrupt president this country has ever seen… but telling the truth about a life-saving medicine? THAT SHALL NOT STAND. 

New Nashville resident Candace Owens tried to come to his rescue to give him a chance to retract, but to his credit, he didn’t. TRUMP TOLD CANDACE OWENS: “The vaccine worked… PEOPLE AREN’T DYING WHEN THEY TAKE THE VACCINE… if you do get it it’s a very minor form.”

He’s right. The vaccine is working as intended. The VAST majority of COVID hospitalizations are now unvaccinated people.

Of course, his base can’t handle the truth. They went nuts over this. ALEX JONES RIPPED TRUMP, saying he is “either completely ignorant or one of the most evil men who ever lived” 👀

Candace Owens then took to social media to say Trump was just too old and out of touch to use the internet to get *REAL* information from the Facebook fever swamps – we’re betting Trump didn’t like that one AT ALL. 

Of course, not everyone was upset with him. People who understand that the vaccine is working as intended were more than willing to credit Trump with getting this right. Even White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed Trump’s COVID vaccine recommendation… a sentence we never thought we’d type. 😷

But the backlash to Trump by his base for saying positive things about the vaccine has been severe. It seems the only thing they can’t forgive him for is telling even the slightest bit of truth about this life-saving medicine. Perhaps this is because many have lost their jobs or even gotten arrested over their refusal to take this life-saving medicine, clearly viewing it as a loyalty test, a way to show they support Trump to the bitter end.

But what do you do when even Trump doesn’t agree with taking that stance?

Life must get pretty confusing when you devote yourself to a grifter whose only true commitment is to himself.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. We’ll be following this story closely. Please consider chipping in monthly if you’re not yet doing so, even if it’s just a few bucks – the monthly support truly keeps us going. 

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and here’s to a great New Year.

TODAY’S HOLLER:
LEE COOL WITH GUNS ON PLANES: Q: “Would you support guns on planes?” GOV. LEE: “That’s up to airlines.” 😲😳 Q: “Yet private companies can’t require employee vaccines?” LEE: “…uhhhh I didn’t agree with the bill I signed 🧐🙃…” How many different ways can Lee pander to extremists and fail to lead?

WAR BUDGET GOES UP EVEN DURING PEACE: 5% increase ($768 BILLION/year, $7.7 TRILLION/decade) to the war budget DURING PEACE — The GOP will vote for this but reject 1/5th of it for child care, pre-k, health care, climate, housing, etc? They care more about defense contractors than people.

Hospitalization rate by vaccine status… blue is unvaccinated… green is vaccinated… Get vaccinated. 😷

WHAT A SCHMECK: “I meant no disrespect” 🧐 – Jared Schmeck, who said “fuck you” by another name to Biden after a very cordial call in front of children, including his own, says he meant no disrespect, when in fact he meant only disrespect… Doing it is classless. Trying to walk it back is cowardly. Don’t be a Schmeck.

SCHMECK: “Trump is my president, the election was 100% stolen.”🙄 After saying he wasn’t a Trumper and “meant no disrespect”, the ex-cop who said “Fuck You” to Biden by a different name on a Santa call with kids (but says he’s a “Christian” first 🧐) sings a different tune to Bannon.

DEAD VOTER CLAIM DIES: “False claims thousands of ballots cast in the names of dead Georgia voters can rest in peace… Election investigators found just 4, all returned by relatives… latest in a series of unsubstantiated claims of fraud since debunked…”

It’s good that Georgia only found 4 ballots sent by relatives after death, but also— why are they getting fines when Crystal Mason (a black woman) got 5 years in Texas for thinking she could vote and casting a provisional vote that wasn’t even counted? Obscene.

LAWSUIT: “2 Georgia election workers who were the target of vote-rigging conspiracy theories sued far-right OANN & Giuliani for allegedly spreading lies about them…” (One is Ruby Freeman, who Kanye’s publicist and a Trump aide tried to pressure)

🚨BIDEN: “I support making an exception on voting rights for the filibuster.” #SaveDemocracy 🇺🇸

VP HARRIS: “Half of the senate (all the Republicans) REFUSE TO EVEN DEBATE voting rights legislation… Stand up before the American people. Defend your position. See if it stands up to logic and reason.” #EndTheFilibuster 🇺🇸

👂LISTEN: “Probably because you keep touching them, you nasty perv!” – CLEVELAND, TN televangelist Perry Stone interrupted during service 11/30 – he is accused of sexually harassing multiple ministry members. There is a federal investigation.

Paid for by taxing those who can afford it — thanks for the breakdown, Fox! imagine thinking these are bad things. 🧐🙃 #PassThePeoplesBudget

UNITED MINE WORKERS TO MANCHIN: “REVISIT YOUR OPPOSITION TO BBB” – America’s largest coal mining union that reps West Virginia miners is urging Senator Manchin to support Biden’s bill AND get voting rights legislation passed. 🇺🇸 🗣 

A fair question for Senator Schumer…

LEE WANTS THE RNC HERE IN 2024: Oh boy – this is just what we need around here. 🎪

LEE PUTS PRISON GUARDS OVER TEACHERS: Perhaps nothing shows Governor Lee’s misplaced priorities like his decision to have entry-level correctional officers earn what it takes a teacher with a bachelor’s degree TEN YEARS to make… budgets are moral documents.

LAKELAND COUNTY:  Anti-LGBT parents threaten to pull their kids out if the school board allows a GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE to exist… board says it can’t pick which clubs to allow.🏳️‍🌈

MADISONVILLE: Officer Wes Martin for Monroe County Commission 1st District arrests a Latino man for “HOOTIN’ & HOLLERIN’” because he says he disturbed his coffee, then arrests the man filming it. They say he was annoyed the waitress played their music. Cops on power trips is a danger to us all.

UNDERCOVER KKK INFORMANT: “came across dozens of police officers, prison guards, sheriff deputies, other law enforcement officers involved with the klan and outlaw motorcycle groups…” – How many more must there be?

OFFICER FANONE RESIGNS: “Clearly there are some members of our department who feel their oath is to Donald Trump and not to the Constitution… I no longer felt like I could trust my fellow officers.” 😳 — Be alarmed. 🚨

FORCED BIRTH ACTIVISTS HAVE NO ANSWERS: Anti-reproductive freedom activists have very few answers as to why they also support cutting programs (Medicaid, food stamps, child care, etc.) that help women feel they can afford to go through with a pregnancy.

🎯 🇺🇸

NASHVILLE STRONG: Nashville restaurants Rodizio Grill & The Melting Pot post notes about the Christmas bombing 1 year ago: “A lot was lost but we remain grateful nobody was injured.” 

😳🌎

In case you’re wondering, this is what we got everyone we know for Christmas…

And while we’re talking about Marsha, let’s always remember this little gem…

CARTOONS OF THE DAY 🎄 🎅

Don’t forget to share our YEAR IN REVIEW VIDEO! We truly appreciate everyone who supports us and helped us get to where we are.

Please consider CHIPPING IN MONTHLY to help us grow… make it $10 and we’ll send you a holler hat! (note your address on PayPal and
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GOV. LEE’S BOARD OF ED APPOINTEE LINKED TO AMMO SALE TO AURORA KILLER

Governor Bill Lee has just appointed Jordan Mollenhour of Knoxville to the State Board of Education, the governing and policy-making body for Tennessee’s Pre-K-12 public education system – which through partnership with the TN Department of Education maintains oversight in K-12 implementation and academic standards.

According to Knox TN Today:

“Mollenhour is co-CEO of Mollenhour Gross LLC, an investment company based in Knoxville. He will represent the Second Congressional District… Mollenhour’s term of service is for five years….”

What the article does not mention is Mollenhour’s very concerning history as an online ammunition dealer, owning an online company with an obscure ownership trail that according to the St. Louis Dispatch sold thousands of bullets to at least one mass shooter.

In a 2014 article called “HOW THE AURORA SHOOTER GOT HIS AMMO” by Todd Frankel, then of the St. Louis Dispatch, Frankel follows the trail of the sale of the bullets used in the murder of 12 people and the injuring of 58 others in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater all the way to Knoxville, and then on to Atlanta.

The article reads:

“The answer appeared to be an online company in St. Louis… but the trail leads not to St. Louis but to Knoxville, TN, and on to Atlanta, to a secretive company considered to be among the nation’s top online ammunition dealers. It’s founders – a pair of former real estate developers – sell bullets using far-flung P.O. Boxes, different corporate entities, and online marketing tactics that have offended even some firearm enthusiasts. By last summer, these entrepreneurs stood perfectly positioned to close on a quick, legal sale to a deranged killer.”

Those “former real estate developers” were Jordan Mollenhour and his partner Dustin Gross. Both are University of Tennessee graduates. Governor Lee has just appointed Mollenhour to the Board of Education.

According to the article, their company was called www.BulkAmmo.com, and operated under the names www.luckygunner.com, www.ammoforsale.com, and others. In the article Frankel tracks their web of corporations and business names to a distributor in Atlanta, but he’s never able to contact them for comment.

Frankel also summarizes the history of the ammo business in America, pointing out that it wasn’t always possible to order thousands of bullets online and have them show up to your door no questions asked, but that a piece of legislation in 1986 changed it so that they could.

Maybe Chris Rock is right – If gun control is impossible to pass in our messed up, gun-sick nation – maybe restricting the ammo is what we should be focusing on? But in the meantime it seems fair to ask why Governor Lee is appointing someone with a sordid past that includes enabling at least one mass shooting in Colorado to a board of education overseeing what our kids learn.

Selling thousands of bullets online to a mass killer wasn’t illegal, but it probably should be, and at the very least we shouldn’t be putting people who think it’s ok to make a living doing that in charge of our children’s education.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t Lee’s only questionable education appointment – Lee and Speaker Sexton just also recently appointed anti-Muslim 9/11 Truther Laurie Cardoza-Moore to the textbook commission.

Extremism at the highest levels of Tennessee’s government is on full display. And it’s our kids who will suffer.

TWO VERY DIFFERENT PUBLIC SCHOOL FIGHTS

Even though the VA governor race has gone opposite the president basically every time historically, everyone seems to have their own hot take about why the Democrats lost in Virginia, a need to treat the race as a bellwether for the impending doom of the Democratic party.

Some are blaming it on progressives, saying Biden is overreaching with his Build Back Better agenda (despite the fact that everything in it is extremely popular).

Others are saying it’s the gridlock that had Biden’s popular budget and the infrastructure package stuck in gear (and gutted) that caused people to sour on the Dems.

And then there’s the schools issue.

Glenn Youngkin seized on a big misstep by Terry Mcauliffe in the closing weeks of the race where he said:

“I’m not going to let parents come into schools, and actually take books out, and make their own decision.”

Republicans seized on the quote as Mcauliffe saying parents should have “no role” in public schools, which is something no candidate is arguing for or running on.

Those who want the truth taught, believe masks keep kids safe, and who insist Critical Race Theory is not being taught are not saying parents have “no place” in schools. School boards were elected by parents to make many of those decisions, and parental involvement is obviously an important key to a child’s education.

Youngkin seizing on that unfortunate Mcauliffe quote was fair play. His closing ads that insisted Mcauliffe was lying about CRT being taught in schools, however, were not. The slides Youngkin featured in those ads were not from a Virginia public schools curriculum, but were instead from a presentation given to adults about student discipline – according to the woman whose presentation it was, and who was horrified by Youngkin’s tactics.

Never one to let facts to get in the way of a good story, that didn’t matter to Youngkin. He featured them anyway, which led to many Virginians pointing to CRT in schools as their main issue in the election even when they couldn’t tell you what CRT actually is.

Whether or not you believe the CRT lie turned the election, one thing is clear: Republicans are going to make public schools an issue throughout the country in future elections.

And they’re finding sympathy for their causes in some unlikely places – the bluest cities in America.

There’s now no shortage of think pieces about how school issues in places like New York City and San Francisco where people believe the push for equity and inclusion have gone too far have laid the groundwork for the conflicts we’re seeing in places like Virginia – as though the discussions surrounding public schools in these very different places are somehow even remotely the same.

But they are not.

In Tennessee for instance, the fights at school board meetings are about refusing to mask children, banning books, and not even letting teachers talk about race, which is essentially the bill Tennessee legislators just proudly passed.

Notably, that anti-CRT bill didn’t even mention CRT, but instead basically banned teachers from putting history in the context of race.

The state legislature is also banning the ability of teachers to even mention LGBT people, and passing bills that threaten heavy fines if teachers teach the truth about our history, instead insisting that they both-sides things like the Civil War (while they fight to keep KKK Grand Wizard statues in our capitol and refuse to acknowledge that the Civil War was fought over slavery).

This is all against a backdrop of having Governor Bill Lee as our governor, who has made “school choice” and private school vouchers his #1 priority, getting them passed through “bribes and threats” according to members of his own party before they were struck down by a federal judge.

Yet he’s still trying.

Lee even had Trump Secretary of Education Betsy Devos come to town to help him push the vouchers through. Devos once revealed on a Christian radio show that her agenda was to steer public funds to private Christian schools to “Advance God’s Kingdom” – a goal Governor Lee very much seems to share.

Steering funds away from our public schools is especially problematic considering we’re already #46 in the nation in per pupil spending. We have BILLIONS in our “rainy day fund”, we just awarded $900 MILLION to Ford for a new plant in West Tennessee… yet when it comes to our kids and paying our teachers properly, it’s pockets empty.

That’s the backdrop for the school board fights in Southern states like ours. It isn’t about renaming a school away from a founding father to be more politically correct here, or about whether or not there’s a more racially equitable way we can teach math.

It’s about DEFUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION.

It’s worth noting the chair of Moms For Liberty in Williamson County doesn’t even have her kids in public schools (Lee doesn’t either), openly says we shouldn’t teach the truth, and has called public school teachers “brainwashing assholes”. Governor Lee once told a woman at a town hall he agreed people without kids in schools should have the option not to pay for them.

So when Virginia makes headlines, and moderate Democrats who otherwise believe in public schools and want to fix them start to see those Republicans as brothers and sisters-in-arms in a war against progressives, they need to realize the fight they’re fighting is a MUCH DIFFERENT FIGHT than the fight those Republicans they sympathize with are fighting, and that tying the two together ultimately runs cover for people who are hellbent on destroying public education.

As we move towards a more equitable and inclusive country, and public schools more and more become the center of the discussion, there may be things some think go too far – but please think twice before making common cause with those who don’t want to fix public schools, but instead would prefer they, and government-backed anything, go away completely – which would inevitably hurt those with the least, the most.

Public education is a bedrock of our American democracy. It isn’t perfect, but we need it. Let’s fix it and defend it, not attack it and defund it.

Justin Kanew is the founder of the Tennessee Holler. Subscribe & Support HERE.

TN ED REPORT: Public Money, Private Schools – Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Lee

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is an unapologetic champion of school privatization. While the Tennessee Supreme Court has delayed implementation of the voucher scheme Lee succeeded in passing in 2019, Lee has put on a full court press of other measures in order to bring privatization to the Volunteer State.

The latest effort comes by way of Lee attempting to “reform” the state’s school funding formula, known as the BEP. The move includes 18 subcommittees designed to make recommendations for revising the formula – even though Lee has indicated he has no plans to actually increasing funding for schools.

On that note, the Tennessee Education Association suggests Lee’s efforts are missing the mark:

Tennessee ranks 46th in the nation for what we invest per student. It is irresponsible and harmful to Tennessee children to continue the pattern of insufficient state investment in our schools, especially at a time when Tennessee has the largest revenue surpluses in state history. We can and must do better for our students.

Any review of the BEP funding formula must include more than recommendations on how to change the formula. Until the state makes a significant increase in public education funding to address many challenges plaguing our schools, updating a formula will not get us where we need to be to provide the high-quality public education Tennessee children deserve.”

Nashville education blogger TC Weber notes that the BEP is often studied, but never actually improved:

Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent Nakia Towns puts it succinctly when pointing out that without a commitment from the governor and the legislature to put more money into funding education, “this whole conversation is without any real teeth.”

There is no need for further study, but Bill Lee insists on acting in a manner not dissimilar to my children’s behavior. If you don’t like what Mom says, go try to engage Dad. If that doesn’t work, try asking the question with different wording. Likely to work out as well for him as it does for them.

J.C. Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee embraces Lee’s promise of including more voices, but with a caveat,

“If we want different outcomes, we need different voices in the room. I hope there is an honest attempt to let people truly express their opinions, and that the outcome is not already decided,” he said. “This cannot be an exercise in futility. We need to address some giant issues.”

 

Lee has tipped his hand a bit by suggesting the new formula will be “student-centered” – that money will follow kids. This is exactly the type of rhetoric used by voucher advocates who suggest we should fund “students not systems.” Student-centered funding is also an approach pushed by privatization advocates over at ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

If Lee were serious about improving public schools, his major announcement around the BEP would have included his commitment to a way to make up for the $1.7 billion shortfall in Tennessee’s current school funding.

 

Photo by Celyn Kang on Unsplash

Meanwhile, a Pro-Privatization PAC Ramps Up

Just as Gov. Lee is moving forward with his funding formula privatization scheme, a political action committee allied with Lee’s interests is ramping up activity. Team Kid PAC is now on the scene and sure to be a player in the 2022 elections.

Team Kid PAC is the political arm of Tennesseans for Student Success – a supposedly pro-schools nonprofit that is heavily involved in legislative and political advocacy with an aim toward school privatization. Plus, the group has close ties to the payday lending industry.

Finally, the Teacher Shortage Crisis is Here

I mean, we don’t actually want a teacher shortage crisis. But, for those who have been warning about it for some time, the moment may finally be here. Policy makers are actually making some noise about a crisis years in the making. One that was entirely predictable.

Few are suggesting one key solution: Raise teacher pay substantially. Yes, adjusting responsibilities and providing a more welcoming work environment are also important. But, it is long past time to pay teachers significantly more. Tennessee has a $2 billion surplus from the recently-concluded fiscal year. We could fully close the teacher wage gap (a raise of about 20% for most teachers) and still have plenty of cash left over without raising taxes one dime.

Subscribe to the TN Education Report HERE