News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.) – Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) confirmed today that the Senate Education Committee will hold meetings in late summer or early fall to review facts regarding the state’s Common Core Standards. Gresham said the Committee will hear from critics from all ends of the political spectrum regarding concerns with the standards as well as gather testimony from proponents and state education officials.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSS0). Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards. Several states, however, have recently announced they are reevaluating them.
“These are fact-finding meetings,” said Senator Gresham. “Some parents and teachers have voiced concerns that we need to look at. It is also important that we review the progress of this program, including the latest test results. In addition, I want to evaluate how the standards might have affected state and local control.”
In Tennessee, the decision to adopt Common Core State Standards was made by Governor Phil Bredesen and the State Board of Education in July 2010. The State Board of Education is the governing and policy-making body for the Tennessee system of public elementary and secondary education. Since that time, school districts in Tennessee have phased in use of the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts.
“It is very important that we have high academic standards to give our students the skills they need to compete in an increasingly global economy,” said Senator Gresham. “At the same time, I firmly believe that education is a state and local function and we must always work to ensure that we have the autonomy necessary to best serve the interest of Tennessee students. We will look at all the factors as we review how this program is serving our students and helping us reach our academic goals.”
Senator Gresham represents Senate District 26 which is comprised of Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy, and Henderson Counties. She and her husband, Will, live on a farm in Somerville, Tennessee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The sponsor of a proposal that seeks to change the way certain charter schools are authorized said Wednesday the measure is needed to continue education reform in Tennessee.
The legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville passed the Senate Finance Committee 7-3 and was sent to the full Senate.
The advancing measure is one of at least three versions that have been proposed. The previous version sought to create a state panel to authorize charter schools for five counties where there are failing schools.
Those counties include more than 330,000 students in the state’s four largest cities: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Shelby. Hardeman County also would be affected.
Currently, local school boards decide whether to authorize a charter application. There are currently 48 charters operating in Tennessee.
Under the latest proposal, the state Board of Education would be able to overrule local school board decisions on charter applications in the lowest-performing school districts.
The bill also gives an applicant approved by the Board of Education 30 days to return to the school district if the two can reach an agreement.
“It’s a way to get there,” Gresham said. “And we’re going to get there: a world class system of education in Tennessee.”
Members of the committee who at one time opposed the proposal appeared to be comfortable with the latest version. For one, the cost to create the panel was close to $240,000, where the new proposal drops the amount to $199,000.
The advancing proposal also would provide a more detailed hearing process before a decision is made on an application, as well as require some oversight from the state Department of Education.
“While it’s not perfect, I think it’s a good piece of legislation,” said committee vice chairman Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga.
However, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle didn’t seem too pleased with the measure, saying “this cake is not baked.”
The Memphis Democrat, whose city contains 69 failing schools, was unsuccessful in passing an amendment that sought to place a charter school within two miles of a failing school.
“We want them located where the people are who need them,” he said.
The Senate has approved, 22-9, legislation that requires anyone filming livestock abuse to turn over all “unedited photographs, digital images or video” to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours.
Proponents say the bill (SB1248) is aimed at stopping animal abuse promptly. Critics said it actually protects animal abusers by targeting only those make photographs or video.
The measure is scheduled for a House floor vote today.
In Senate debate Tuesday, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, cited abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses recorded on video by the Humane Society of the United States as illustrating the need for legislation. The HSUS video led to successful prosecution for abuse of the animals, but Bell said the animals themselves suffered.
“They sat on it (the video) for four months… then released it at an opportune time for them,” said Bell, suggesting the recording was to “benefit fundraising” by HSUS. “They had no concern for that (abused) horse.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, noted that if HSUS had “sat on the film forever” the proposed new law would never have come into play and the abuse would have continued.
“You’re criminalizing the film-making, not the abuse,” said Norris. “That puts the lie to the assertion that it’s the abuse you’re concerned with.”
The bill makes it a misdemeanor crime, punishable by a fine of up to $500 but no jail time, to fail to turn over all recordings of livestock abuse to a law enforcement authority.
Norris proposed an amendment that would have required anyone having knowledge of animal abuse to report it to authorities as well. He said that would “get to the root of the problem” by targeting the abuse, not the photographing of the abuse.
Sponsor Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, opposed Norris’ revision, saying it would “make every person who ever saw or observed what they might think animal unreasonably treated, a criminal if don’t turn in.” Norris’ amendment was then tabled, or killed, on a 17-10 vote.
The bill was also debated Wednesday in the House Calendar Committee, where Rep. Jon Lundberg, D-Bristol, tried to have it sent back to the House Civil Justice Committee, which Lundberg chairs, for further hearings.
Lundberg said he believes the bill infringes on First Amendment rights, but his motion was killed with only seven committee members voting for it while 12 opposed. Critics of the bill said amendments may also be filed for today’s House vote.
Legislators out to stop what they see as “vigilante” attacks on the livestock industry are pushing for enactment of a bill that critics see as an attack on constitutional freedom of speech.
The bill (SB1248) would require anyone observing abuse of livestock to promptly turn over all “unedited photographs, digital images or video” related to the abuse to law enforcement authorities. Under the current Senate version, this would have to occur within 48 hours of when the recording was made or, if the recording was made on a weekend, on the next weekday.
Violators would be guilty of a “class C” misdemeanor, penalized by a maximum fine of $500.
“This is a Catch-22 bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, when the proposal (SB1248) came up on the Senate floor last week, referring to the Joseph Heller novel on a paradoxical situation.
Even though for-profit charter school companies targeted the Tennessee legislature with several lobbyists this year, their agenda appeared dead until a last-minute bid slid through last week, reports The Tennessean. The plan to allow for-profit charter schools in Tennessee twice failed in Senate committees this year. But an eleventh-hour change to a noncontroversial bill originally created to clean up a few charter school rules started the debate again.
The newest plan is sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and is headed to a full Senate vote after last week sailing through the Senate Education Committee that she chairs. It has not been placed on the voting calendar yet.
…When she offered her changes to colleagues, Gresham said “As we all know, charter schools are an important part of ongoing education reform. Now that we see the real value of charter schools, now we have one more step.”
A spokesman for the Tennessee School Boards Association believes lobbyists can take some credit for the amendment Gresham introduced to allow for-profit companies. The original bill that Gresham chose to amend is Senate Bill 205; it has a counterpart in House Bill 315.
The House bill will be considered by the Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee on Wednesday. At that time, a representative on the committee can offer an amendment similar to Gresham’s. The House bill was originally sponsored by Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, who chairs the House Education Committee.
NASHVILLE – By pushing for a more expansive school voucher program than Gov. Bill Haslam wanted, key state Senate Republicans probably have assured that no voucher bill of any sort will be enacted this year.
Haslam decided Wednesday to abandon for the year efforts to pass his bill to provide “opportunity scholarships” to a limited number of low-income students in the state’s lowest-rated schools.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, announced the governor’s decision.
“He did not want it to become a political football at the expense of the children,” said Norris, adding that the situation had devolved into “gamemanship.”
Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, had been leading an effort to broaden the voucher bill to cover far more students than the Haslam bill. Their plans called for transforming the governor’s bill with amendments to accomplish that goal.
By yanking the bill from further consideration this year, Haslam and Norris avoid that possibility and, as a practical matter, eliminate chances for any voucher bill to pass this year.
Kelsey, however, said he has not given up and Gresham said she would be looking at options.
Senate Education Committee Chair Dolores Gresham has backed down from a potential clash with Gov. Bill Haslam over the number of school vouchers that could be offered to Tennessee students.
From TNReport: During a meeting of Gresham’s committee Wednesday, the Somerville Republican pulled her expansive voucher legislation, Senate Bill 1358, from the full committee’s discussion agenda and sent it to a general subcommittee typically reserved for bills destined for no further consideration.
Gresham, however, also put off discussion on the governor’s scaled-back voucher legislation for another week.
…Gresham’s bill called for eligibility for middle-class families earning nearly $75,000 a year and would have removed any cap on the number of vouchers by 2016. The bill also opened up eligibility regardless of school performance.
Gresham was short on specifics about her reasons for dropping the competing bill. But she also told reporters she’s not entirely rule out bringing it back later. “I think it’s too early to tell,” Gresham said. “We’ll see what the Legislature does.”
Yet even with Gresham bowing out for the time being, there is still the possibility of a dustup amongst Republicans over the issue. Sen Brian Kelsey, a member of the Education Committee and long-time voucher advocate, spoke with reporters after the meeting. Kelsey said he hopes to amend the governor’s bill to bring it closer to what Gresham was proposing.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Republican sponsor of a measure competing with Gov. Bill Haslam’s to create a school voucher program in Tennessee says she’s convinced the initiative should be broader than what the governor is proposing.
His measure would limit the program to 5,000 students in failing schools in the academic year that begins in August, and grow to 20,000 by 2016.
The proposal Sen. Dolores Gresham plans to present in the Senate Education Committee as early as next week would increase the income limit for eligibility to about $75,000 for a family of four, which is quite an increase from the $42,643 envisioned by Haslam’s proposal. The bill also has no limitation on growth.
When reporters asked Gresham about her proposal Wednesday evening, she said she had talked to the Republican governor about the competing proposals, but didn’t elaborate on what was discussed.
“The governor and I are on the same page,” said the Somerville Republican and retired Marine lieutenant colonel. “We both believe that we should do this. The only difference is to what degree. It’s … my conviction that it should be broader.”
With Andy Berke expected to be elected soon as Chattanooga mayor, Andy Sher takes a look at his previous political career in the state Legislature. There are mostly compliments. The story starts like this: As chairman of the state Senate Education Committee, Republican Delores Gresham sometimes worked with Sen. Andy Berke and sometimes fought with him over a GOP agenda minority Democrats thought went too far.
Gresham, a no-nonsense former Marine colonel from West Tennessee, said she developed respect for the 44-year-old attorney who is widely seen as the frontrunner in the Chattanooga mayor’s race.
The other candidates are former city employee Guy Satterfield and perennial candidate Robert Chester Heathington Jr. The nonpartisan election is March 5.
“If [Berke] had a conviction about a certain issue, he would not hesitate to speak,” Gresham said.
She and Berke were among lawmakers who worked with Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2009 as he began developing K-12 and higher education initiatives. Those bipartisan efforts earned Tennessee national recognition and a $500 million federal Race to the Top grant.
“He’s a great guy; he’s a smart guy, and I always appreciated his incisiveness and insights even though I didn’t agree with him 99 percent of the time,” chuckled Gresham.
Berke’s legislative experience will make him a “fantastic mayor,” said Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, “because he’s gained an understanding of how government functions.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) has filed legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to authorize and encourage coursework in neurological or brain science as part of teacher training programs at the state’s public colleges and universities. Gresham said leading education experts agree that knowledge about the brain is essential for educators at all grade levels as an important part of understanding how students learn.
“Evidence continues to mount that there is great benefit for our teachers to have a rudimentary course on how the human brain works,” said Senator Gresham. “Neuroscience gives us much information to help us adapt learning technology to meet many challenges that face teachers today in trying to raise student achievement. A basic understanding of how the brain works helps teachers not only identify student difficulties, but gives them more information to support families in taking appropriate steps to overcome these challenges.”
Gresham said Senate Bill 59 also promotes coordination between educators and neuroscientists in Tennessee. She supports the establishment of a knowledge exchange network, which would provide cutting edge research regarding proven neurology-based approaches for teaching students.
Research shows remarkable new information regarding the brain’s function during adolescence that experts maintain have implications for everyone working with teenagers. This research includes new findings regarding the effect of sleep deprivation in adolescence. There are also new breakthroughs in understanding how long-term memories are created, which have implications for student learning
“Teachers face many barriers, from adolescent sleep deprivation to learning difficulties like Dyslexia and Dyscalculia,” said Gresham. “Tennessee has incredible scientific resources within our universities and elsewhere that we can tap into to better understand how we can utilize new discoveries to address such barriers. I am very excited about the opportunities that this legislation offers to increase student achievement.”