The House approved 66-29 on Tuesday a bill that revises rules for operating for-profit virtual schools and sent it to the governor, whose administration drafted the measure as part of the Haslam administration legislative package this year.
The bill (SB157) was approved after about half hour of debate, mostly devoted to the Republican majority killing amendments proposed by Democrats. One of them, offered by Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville, would have repealed the 2010 law that authorized operation of for-profit virtual schools in Tennessee, leading to establishment of Tennessee Virtual Academy in Union County by K12, Inc.
Another Stewart amendment would have prohibited operation within the state of a for-profit virtual school that is partly owned by a convicted felon. Stewart said that was aimed at Michael Milken, who owns an interest in K12 according to some media accounts.
The Democrat-sponsored revision attempts were all defeated on party-line votes.
The bill itself, sponsored for Haslam by Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, imposes a 1,500-student cap on enrollment on new virtual schools launched in the state. But the limit would not apply to Tennessee Virtual Academy, the only for-profit virtual school already in operation.
The bill also declares that a virtual school that has below standard student performance for three consecutive years, can be closed by the state commissioner of education. The commissioner would also have the option of imposing an enrollment cap on such a school. The existing academy had poor performance results in its first year of operation.
Brooks said the bill gives the commissioner options in pushing to improve schools and gives students and their parents options as well.
A House committee killed legislation that would have closed Tennessee Virtual Academy Tuesday after one Knoxville legislator effectively blocked another from talking to the panel about allegations the for-profit school altered the bad grades of some students.
Instead, the House Education Subcommittee approved a bill pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration that puts some new restrictions on virtual schools, but only after eliminating – with the governor’s approval – a proposed 5,000-student enrollment cap that was originally part of HB151.
Democratic Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville sponsored the bill (HB728) that would have effectively repealed a law passed in 2011 that allowed for-profit virtual schools to operate in Tennessee.
The 2011 bill was sponsored by Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, who is now chairman of the House Education Committee and sponsor of the Haslam administration bill changing some rules for running virtual schools.
Stewart told the committee that Tennessee Virtual Academy, part of a system of virtual schools operated around the nation by K12, Inc., has proven itself in a year of operation a “bad idea” for both its students, who have had low scores in testing, and for taxpayers.
State House Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, said Tuesday he is eyeing a possible bid against embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., in the 2014 GOP primary, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Brooks, an ordained Church of God minister, said he has “received a number of calls of support and had many conversations encouraging me to run for Congress in the 4th Congressional District.
“While I am firmly committed to serving my constituents in the 24th District, I wanted to publicly say that I am exploring what a solutions-based campaign for Congress would look like and how I can best serve the great State of Tennessee,” Brooks noted in his statement.
The legislator, who is public relations and conference coordinator for the Cleveland-based Church of God, added, “I plan to spend the next few weeks praying about the path forward with my family and talking with friends, neighbors and fellow Tennesseans about the future.”
— Note: Brooks’ statement is reproduced below.
A fundraiser will be held today for state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Rep. Harry Brooks at the Powell home of a couple who have been in the news for operating a company without a Tennessee license, reports Georgiana Vines. Massey’s brother, U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, will be the honored guest, according to the invitation.
The problems of Chris and Andrea Ball and their firm, HR Comp LLC, came to light last month after they appeared in a photo with Gov. Bill Haslam when he signed into law a new statute governing the operation of staff leasing companies.
Tom Ingram, a government affairs specialist/lobbyist who lives in Knoxville, said Friday the Balls’ competitors had been busy notifying the media of their problems.
“I’ve worked with them over a year. They have a new license. In the end, Andrea worked hard with (an) association to tighten up regulations in the industry that has been subject to abuse. They’re building a good business,” Ingram said.
Ingram said Andrea Ball worked with the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations on the legislation passed this year.
In a consent order signed April 9, the Balls’ attorney acknowledged their business had acted as an employee leasing agency without a license and the Balls had given false responses when asked about it, according to The Tennessean in Nashville.
The newspaper also reported a $10,000 fine was issued. In the consent order, the Department of Commerce and Insurance determined Andrea Ball was not of “good moral character because the Jan. 12, 2010, response she sent about HR Comp’s unlicensed activity was not true.”
The new license, which is probationary, is for HR Comp Employee Leasing. Andrea Ball said Friday she is the owner and her husband is not part of the business. She also said a $3.5 million federal tax lien is being paid off monthly.
“I’ve spent 1½ years trying to address an old situation,” she said.
Ball said former Knoxville mayoral candidate Mark Padgett has been hired to help with sales.
— Note: Previous post HERE.
Gov. Bill Haslam is coming to the aid of another incumbent Republican legislator with primary opposition, namely Rep. Kevin Brooks of Cleveland, So reports Andy Sher as part of a story on legislative primary races, especially in Southeast Tennessee. He is scheduled to be at Brooks’ scheduled campaign kickoff Monday. The three-term lawmaker, now assistant majority leader, faces opposition in his District 24 reelection bid from Jack Epperson, pastor of Fairview Worship Center.
Epperson, a one-time Cleveland policeman and a TVA retiree, said he intends to self-fund his bid.
…Cleveland’s Epperson said he decided to run against Brooks after reading the U.S. Constitution and Federalist Papers and “seeing the way government was going.”
“I think they never envisioned these career politicians” who are “just growing government … [to] make their jobs more secure,” he said.
Epperson said he’s not a tea party member but agrees with the party’s views on limited government and fiscal matters.
Brooks said he is hardly a career politician as he finishes up six years in office and seeks another term. He and other Republicans point to cuts they made this year in taxes and state programs.
Epperson’s remarks, he said, “show how out of touch with the Republican majority he truly is. I have a full-time job in Cleveland, every day. I’ve never considered myself a full-time politician.”
In District 31, Cobb faces Dayton insurance agency owner Ron Travis. Travis did not return a message left on his office phone Friday.
In House District 22, David Kimbro of Cleveland is challenging Watson. Kimbro, who said he once taught school in Dallas, Texas, but now works as a line cook, said he believes all incumbents should have an opponent. He said he intends to conduct most of his campaign via the Internet.
Knoxville’s Rep. Harry Brooks abandoned Monday the effort to pass a controversial bill that could have cut lottery-funded scholarship in half for an estimated 5,000 students.
“The thought is we don’t need to do it right now,” said Brooks after taking HB2649 “off notice” during the final meeting of the House Finance Subcommittee.
The bill, as filed, would have required college students to have both an ACT score of 21 and a 3.0 high school grade point average to get a $4,000 annual scholarship.
Currently, a student can qualify by having either one. Both are not required.
Under the bill, those who have one, but not both, of the qualifications would get only a $2,000 scholarship.
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
Tennessee House Republicans, led by Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland) found more ways to avoid focusing on the one topic that Tennesseans desperately need them to focus on, the economy.
In a 35 minute debate on the House floor the Republicans hit every major talking point of extremist conspiracy groups such as the John Birch Society in decrying “Agenda 21,” a plan passed 20 years ago passed by the UN and supported by every President, Democrat or Republican since. The agenda was designed and implemented to promote sustainable development and smart growth practices throughout the world to reduce the harmful effects of overcrowding and mismanagement of resources.
Below is a list of the wild-eyed conspiracy theories promoted in the resolution, followed by what Agenda 21 actually does:
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Republicans are calling for the rejection of a United Nations agenda on the environment and poverty, even though Democrats say their actions are silly and amount to fear-mongering.
The resolution, which “recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21,” was approved 72-23 in the House on Thursday. The agenda came out of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 following discussions on “sustainable development.”
Rep. Kevin Brooks of Cleveland said the resolution is similar to one that the national GOP passed and “encouraged all their state Republican parties to follow suit.”
Republicans said the agenda is a veiled attempt to take away property rights.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House sponsor of a proposal that seeks to cut some students’ lottery scholarships in half said Wednesday that he supports an amendment that would make such a move contingent on lottery revenues.
The original bill was scheduled to be heard in the House Education Subcommittee. Republican Rep. Harry Brooks of Knoxville delayed the measure from last week to give lawmakers a chance to review the amendment that has been approved in the Senate.
The original legislation sought to reduce by 50 percent the award for students who do not meet both standardized testing and high school grade requirements. A special panel of lawmakers recommended the proposal in November.
Under the new legislation, the lottery scholarship requirements won’t change if lottery proceeds of at least $10 million are sustained through 2015.
“I’ve read it and I like the amendment,” Brooks said.
(Note: The News Sentinel ran this story by yours truly along with the CA report noted in post below.)
Rep. Harry Brooks says he worked with a lobbyist on legislation that cleared the way for Union County to operate an online school system with K12 Inc., but was unaware that the bill was based on a model drafted by an organization of conservative state legislators.
The Knoxville Republican said in an interview that his interest in providing virtual schools to students dates back to his service on the Knox County School Board several years ago when he studied use of such efforts at the county’s juvenile detention facility.
Portions of the bill (HB1030) are identical to a model law developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization for state legislators largely funded by corporations. ALEC has sometimes been controversial, and last week the Center for Media and Democracy posted on the Internet some 800 model ALEC bills along with critical commentary..
Brooks, former chairman of the House Education Committee, said he shared an interest in using online materials for educating children with state Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville.
Lobbyist Beth Winstead approached him earlier this year about the proposal, he said.