Legislation to allow elected school superintendents in some Tennessee counties failed by a single vote in a House committee Tuesday.
Sponsor Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, afterwards cited opposition from House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, as the deciding factor and said he may face political consequences.
Montgomery said he can see both sides of the argument over whether superintendents should be elected or appointed by school boards.
His no vote, Montgomery said, was based on a belief that so much change is currently afoot in education reforms that adding elected superintendents to the mix would be “just too much to try and put on people right now.”
The bill, HB902, won eight yes votes versus nine no votes on the Education Committee. Niceley also noted that Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, who voted for the bill in subcommittee voted against it in the full committee.
State law since 1992 has mandated that superintendents be appointed by school boards. Niceley’s bill would have allowed counties that had elected superintendents before 1992 to return to elections if voters approved in a referendum authorized by the county commission.
Niceley said that in Montgomery’s home county of Sevier, a desire for return to elected superintendents is “bigger than the income tax” as a political issue.
Montgomery said that sentiment in Sevier does tilt toward elected superintendents, but noted that the county school superintendent, Jack Parton, was initially elected by popular vote years ago, was later appointed by the school board and has been in office ever since.
Niceley acknowledged the vote likely kills his bill for the year, but noted Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, is sponsoring similar legislation. Windle said that he plans to seek a vote on his bill, too, now that Niceley’s bill has been defeated.
Roll call vote:
Voting yes: Reps. Harry Brooks, John DeBerry, Lois DeBerry, Bill Dunn, Joey Hensley, Debra Maggart, Dennis Powers, John Mark Windle.
Voting no: Reps. Kevin Brooks, Joe Carr, Craig Fitzhugh, John Forgety, Ron Lollar, Richard Montgomery, Jimmy Naifeh, Joe Pitts, Ryan Williams.