News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam tonight delivered his 2013 State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly, contrasting Tennessee with Washington, D.C. and other states across the country that have struggled to keep their fiscal houses in order.
“Unlike the news coming out of our nation’s capital and so many other states around the country, good things are happening in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “We have a long history of fiscal restraint that crosses party lines. We have been deliberate about not spending money we don’t have and in making a concerted effort to save for the future…And now we are well-positioned to continue to invest in a thoughtful, strategic manner.”
The governor reiterated his priorities and progress in the areas of attracting and growing Tennessee jobs, the importance of a customer-focused, efficient and effective state government, improving public safety, and making significant progress in education.
“We had the second largest increase in state K-12 expenditures of all 50 states in fiscal year 2012,” Haslam said. “The average increase was nearly 3 percent. Ours grew almost 12 percent in state education funding. Education is another example of how in Tennessee we’re distinguishing ourselves as different from the rest of the country.
“We are literally putting our money where our mouth is, even when other states haven’t done so through tough budget times,” Haslam continued. “Our administration’s three budgets have certainly supported our commitment to public education, but I also think it is important to note that we’re not just throwing money at it. Dollars alone don’t lead to improvement. There has to be a plan. Along with strategic investments, we’re pursuing real reform in education that is producing results.”
Concerned about the prospect of new federal gun restrictions, perhaps by presidential executive order, two East Tennessee legislators have filed a bill that would prohibit the use of any personnel or funds from Tennessee’s state or local governments to enforce any such moves.
“No public funds of this state or any political subdivision of this state shall be allocated to the implementation, regulation or enforcement of any federal law, executive order, rule or regulation that becomes effective on or after January 1, 2013, that adversely affects a United States citizen’s
ability to lawfully possess or carry firearms in this state,” declares HB10/SB40.
A separate sentence of the proposed law says “no personnel or property of this state or any political subdivision” can be used for such purposes unless federal funding is provided to cover the costs.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro signed on as first co-sponsor in the Senate.
Faison said the measure is designed as an assertion of state rights in dealing with the federal government and is patterned after a bill he successfully sponsored last year that forbids state or local funds being used to support a proposed federal regulation putting new restrictions on juveniles working on farms. The child labor bill passed 70-24 in the House, 28-0 in the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam.
“The founding fathers envisioned the states as the fathers and the federal government as the child,” said Faison in an interview.
“The child has become a brat,” he said. “States need to stand up and take back that power that was derived from the states.”
Faison noted that Vice President Joe Biden is leading an effort to draft new federal gun control legislation, inspired by the murder of 26 people in Connecticut. It is particularly alarming, Faison said, that Biden has raised the possibility of imposing new restrictions on guns through a presidential executive order.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes says he expects businesses across the state to be less conservative after Congress reaches a deal on the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
Emkes spoke to reporters on Wednesday after the State Funding Board made its state revenue projections.
Based on economists’ estimates, the board predicted the state’s total general fund collections should increase from 1.98 percent to 2.85 percent this year, and 2.74 percent to 3.89 percent next year.
The governor selects a number within the range in constructing the budget.
Emkes says he feels comfortable moving forward on the higher end because businesses in and around the state have said they will “move forward” if the fiscal cliff is averted.
He says they’re currently “holding back” because of the uncertainty of broad tax increases on nearly all taxpayers and budget-wide spending cuts that could be triggered in early January.
Gov. Bill Haslam said he is surprised by revenue estimates from local economists who predict the state could expect up to 4 percent growth in the next budget cycle, reports The City Paper In a rare appearance, Haslam joined the State Funding Board on Capitol Hill Friday to hear experts forecast tax collections used to map out next year’s roughly $31.5 billion state spending plan.
Haslam said statistics from the economists were “a little more encouraging than I was expecting, to be honest. The economy feels a little more nervous out there than what the statistics were showing.
“To me, it just doesn’t feel like we’re growing that fast when I talk to businesses out there,” he told reporters after he left the State Funding Board meeting Friday, adding that his evidence is anecdotal next to economists’ statistics.
Economics professor William Fox predicted the nearly 6 percent job growth in the construction industry is a good sign of the state’s recovery. He predicted 4 percent growth in sales tax collections, which includes a 2 percent increase in real economic growth and a 2 percent climb in inflation.
No academic funding or state money will be used to bail out the University of Tennessee athletics department should sagging ticket sales and the cost of a multimillion-dollar coaching change cause another budget deficit, officials tell the News Sentinel. “We’ve made a strong statement that we’re not using state funds to backfill athletics,” said Chris Cimino, vice chancellor of finance. “We’ve done all we’re going to do.”
Last month, the school announced a three-year, $18 million reprieve in donations the athletics department makes to student scholarships, fellowships and discretionary academic funds.
In the meantime, the department is facing as much as $9.4 million to buy out former head football coach Derek Dooley and his staff, another $18.2 million over six years in salary for new coach Butch Jones, $3 million annually for new assistant football coaches and another $1.4 million to buy out Jones’ contract at the University of Cincinnati. Last year, the department reported a $4 million shortfall in its nearly $100 million annual budget.
“While it’s too early to state the exact situation 6½ months from now, our revenues and expenses are on par with what we expected at this point,” UT athletics department spokesman Jimmy Stanton said in a statement, referring to June budget projections.
To cut costs, 17 layoffs were announced in April as part of the consolidation of the women’s and men’s athletic departments. The changes resulted in a $2.5 million saving.
Tennessee spends tens of millions of dollars on professional development for its 63,000 public school teachers but has little idea if it makes a difference or even exactly what it costs, according to the Commercial Appeal. The state budgeted $148.2 million of its $500 million in Race to the Top funds for teacher training, $2,352 per teacher over four years. Researchers say there is not enough data to show the effect on student learning or to even evaluate the content, according to a legislative brief from the state Offices of Research and Education Accountability in the Comptroller’s office.
One of the biggest issues is that more than half of the money — $80 million — is managed by local districts for their own training programs.
“It’s very difficult to determine what is going to professional development and other programs,” said Rebecca Wright, a legislative research analyst who wrote the 14-page report.
“These are local-level issues. Unless you get it at the local level, you aren’t going to find a lot of information,” she said.
The report offers no recommendations. It is the second briefing this year from OREA on professional development for teachers. The first described laws and policies and how the training was structured before Race to the Top.
Money for Dept. of Education
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s Education Department has been awarded a federal grant for more than $5.5 million to improve pay structures and provide greater professional opportunities to teachers in high-poverty schools.
The U.S. Department of Education announced the Teacher Incentive Fund award on Thursday. It will serve school districts in Haywood, Lincoln and Polk counties.
The money will help fund the state’s Recognizing Excellence in Rural Tennessee project. It will build on recent efforts to implement a statewide educator evaluation system that ties student outcomes to educator effectiveness ratings. Money for Henry Home Rehab
A $500,000 Community Development Block Grant has been awarded to the City of Henry to help fund rehabilitation of several homes in the city, reports the Paris Post Intelligencer. Gov. Bill Haslam appeared at the Henry Civic Center Wednesday afternoon to announce the awarding of the CDBG. More than 100 people greeted the governor, along with State Rep. Tim Wirgau, R-Buchanan; State Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden; and Henry Mayor Joe Qualls.
Haslam said he likes the CDBG program, saying it’s one that “Washington got right.”
He said this is a program where the federal government sends taxpayer money back to states, who get to decide which applications are most worthy and then “help a community do some things they may or may not be able to afford otherwise.” Money for UT
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has won a $3.5 million federal grant for a nuclear innovation project.
The award was announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of its Nuclear Energy University Programs.
The programs support complex projects to develop breakthroughs for the U.S. nuclear energy industry. The three-year research projects are led by universities working in collaboration with the nuclear industry, national laboratories and international partners. Money for Civil War Battlefields
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Eight Civil War battlefields, including three in Kentucky and Tennessee, are receiving more than $2.4 million in grants to help with land acquisition.
The National Park Service said Thursday that the grant money will help in the permanent preservation and protection of the battlefields. This year marks the 150 year anniversary of several important Civil War battles.
The park service says the battlefield in Franklin, Tenn. is getting $112,800.
The battlefield in Perryville, Ky. is receiving $43,715, while Mill Springs, Ky. is getting $330,500.
The other battlefields getting land acquisition grant money are in North Carolina and Virginia.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — House Democrats are voicing their opposition to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration’s decision to withhold $3.4 million in state funding from Nashville because of a disputed charter school application.
The lawmakers at a news conference outside the legislative office complex in Nashville on Tuesday afternoon argued that Haslam’s decision was unfair to students at city schools.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said the withheld funding could be subject to a legal challenge, while fellow Nashville Democrat Mike Stewart said lawmakers didn’t envision the state holding the power to demand the approval of applications when they passed a law allowing more charter schools in Tennessee last year.
Opponents of the Great Hearts Academy charter school said its proposal lacked a plan for promoting diversity. Note: The news release is below.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam acknowledged Wednesday that a $3.4 million fine on Nashville’s public school system will affect students, but insisted that the fault lies with school board members who refused to approve a charter school.
The state Education Department has characterized the withheld funding as targeting administrative functions of the school system, not classroom instruction. But the school system has responded that the money goes to a variety of operations ranging from transportation to maintenance — each of which have an effect on students.
The governor didn’t argue with those claims when he met with reporters after a groundbreaking ceremony for an expansion of a Bank of New York Mellon Corp. processing center in Nashville.
“Obviously everything in a school system is ultimately for the benefit of a child, every administrative assistant in the central building, etc.,” he said. “So ultimately that’s right. And that’s why Metro’s decision to do that was harmful.”
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats on Wednesday condemned the state sanctions doled out against Metro Nashville Public Schools over its denial of a single charter school’s application.
Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, announced Tuesday their decision to withhold $3.4 million from Metro Nashville schools. Huffman has gone to great lengths to recruit Great Hearts Academies to an affluent Nashville neighborhood, and now kids all over Davidson County will have to pay.
But Senate Democrats added that they would oppose any bill next session that gives the state sole authority to approve charter schools over local objections.
“I can’t believe they would punish our teachers and students because a political debate didn’t go their way,” Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle said. “We teach our kids not to be bullies, and our state leaders need to heed that lesson.”
This move by state Republicans shows a tendency to put state power over cities and counties. It could have statewide implications. Now Republicans are hinting at a change in state law so that the state can authorize charter schools over local objections.
“It’s a disturbing message Republicans have sent to cities countless times: we know better,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Sen. Lowe Finney said. “I’m saddened to see students in Nashville shortchanged like this.”
“Republicans are always so outraged at Congress over federal mandates, but when it comes to cities in Tennessee, they won’t hesitate to impose their will,” Kyle added.
Tennessee has some experience with charter schools and out-of-state companies. Existing charters have shown mixed results. K12 Inc., a for-profit company operating a statewide virtual academy, is in the bottom 11 percent of schools.
“We need to slow down, take stock of the changes we’ve made to education in Tennessee over the past couple of years, and stop pushing for charters just for the sake of charters,” Finney said. “At some point we need to support the public schools we have.”