MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Twenty-one leaders of Tennessee’s colleges and universities have sent a letter to the state’s two U.S. senators urging their support for immigration reform that will allow more graduates to remain in the country after they finish their education.
The letter dated Wednesday asks Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to back a bi-partisan plan that would ensure foreign-born students educated in U.S. universities will have a clear path to work in this country after graduation.
The educators say current immigration policy threatens “America’s pre-eminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity” because of its inability to retain skilled foreign-born graduates.
Some members of Congress want a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally, an idea that’s been met with deep skepticism by some lawmakers.
— Note: A list of those signing is below.
According to an online survey of nearly 1,000 Tennessee teachers, reported by the Commercial Appeal, 36 percent said they spend between $251 to $500 on classroom supplies, including work sheets, handouts and other materials they need to teach class. Among PreK-2 teachers, that percentage jumped to 42 percent. Nearly 6 percent said they spend more than $1,000 a year.
“A lot of teachers just eat the expense,” said J.C. Bowman, a former teacher and executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, which released the survey last week. “People don’t realize how much they care and how much money they spend out of their own pocket just to do their job.”
Teachers in Shelby County Schools get $200 for classroom extras, but $100 is pooled at each school for laminating film, copy paper, chalk, file folders, scissors and other staples, including staples.
…To get a sense of how far $200 goes, Andy Gattas, who owns four Knowledge Tree stores in the metro area, says a kit to decorate a standard 4- by 6-foot bulletin board sells for $12.
“The teacher will probably need another $8 to $10 in supplies to finish it out. This is one decoration she would leave up for about a month. That’s not counting supplies; there’s no stapler, highlighters, pens, pencils.”
PET sent the results to legislators, hoping that “when they look at the BEP (Basic Education Program) formula, they will increase the amount of money teachers can use for in-house resources,” Bowman said.
“We’re saying, here’s an issue; are you aware?”
Often, the principal siphons teacher supply funds to invest in a new curriculum, said Gattas. “It’s nothing evil; there’s no misappropriation, but (teachers) don’t get all the money.”
Eighty percent of Knowledge Tree sales here come directly from teachers’ wallets, Gattas said.
The rivalry between two organizations representing Tennessee teachers in lobbying the Legislature appears to have intensified and taken on partisan overtones even as both take the same position on some issues, such as opposing school voucher legislation.
In recent commentary distributed to media, J.C. Bowman, executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, criticizes the Tennessee Education Association’s new chief lobbyist, Jim Wrye, as a Democratic “partisan from Alabama with no obvious connection to the state.”
This, Bowman wrote, is “surprising for a union with rapidly declining membership and in a state with a supermajority of Republican legislators” and “certainly bodes well for continued partisanship from the union.”
Wrye said he was “really amazed” at the “strangely personal” attack, which wildly exaggerates his past Democratic ties and ignores his other experiences – including eight months working under a Republican governor in Alabama and duties as
a teacher and online school administrator. He is basically apolitical, Wrye said.