Some Northeast Tennessee legislators are opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s voucher bill, according to Robert Houk. He suspects it’s not all a matter of philosophical differences. Now, the Republican governor and the GOP-led state General Assembly is looking to divert already limited state and local tax dollars away from public education to private schools. Haslam’s voucher plan is seeing opposition from teachers, school boards and Democrats.
And the governor’s bill is not getting any love from state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough. Boss Hill has vowed to stand with the school boards of Johnson City and Washington County, which aren’t keen on the idea of losing precious tax dollars to private schools.
Even so, Hill is not necessarily philosophically opposed to school vouchers. Hill says he is opposed to the governor’s bill because it is aimed squarely at failing schools in urban areas (Memphis and Nashville) and not the better academically performing school systems in our area.
Freshman state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, agrees with Hill on this matter.
“I think vouchers are a good idea, but it’s hard to say what the details of the legislation will be,” Van Huss told Press staff writer Gary B. Gray earlier this month.
Actually, it’s not. The governor’s bill is pretty specific when it comes to the particulars of the proposed voucher system.
So what’s really going on here? Why do Hill and Van Huss (and we suspect Hill’s brother, Timothy, too) appear to be solid votes against Haslam’s voucher bill? Some Capitol Hill insiders believe it’s Hill’s way of exacting some revenge for Haslam’s overhaul of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
Northeast Tennessee residents who suffered property damage from this month’s massive flooding will not receive federal financial assistance, reports the Johnson City Press.
Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has ruled that the area did not meet the criteria for aid despite significant damage to scores of homes and other properties in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties.
Damage from the Aug. 5 storm that brought at least four inches of rain in an hour to the region affected many homeowners in the Dry Creek community as well as residents and businesses in the Johnson City area.
There was an $8.5 million threshold for the area to qualify for federal dollars to help residents rebuild what raging flood water swept away or destroyed. Affirmation would have cleared the way for residents to be reimbursed up to $30,000 for repairs.
About $600,000 was spent buying television ads on four Northeast Tennessee television stations by the opposing sides in a recent Virginia state Senate race, reports the Bristol Herald-Courier. The stations, based in the Tri-Cities area of Tennessee, broadcast into Southwest Virginia, where voters in the 38th District Virginia Senate seat live. The seat was a key in the battle for control of the Virginia Senate.
Excerpt from the story: If the phrases “phase them out,” “hard work,” and “running away from Barack Obama” sound familiar then it’s a pretty good bet you watched programming aired on one of the regions four network television stations over the past few months.
That’s because these messages were the central themes used by Virginia Sen. Phil Puckett, D-Lebanon, who was re-elected, challenger Republican Adam Light and the Republican State Leadership Committee in more than 2,100 advertisements aired on local TV stations this fall as they waged an all-out battle for control of the Virginia Senate.
Records obtained by the Bristol Herald Courier show that Puckett’s re-election campaign spent $317,680 buying enough time to air 1,231 30-second-spots on WJHL, WEMT, WCYB, and WKPT at various times between Sept. 1 and the Nov. 8 election.
Light’s campaign spent $159,895 to run 557 ads on those four stations, while the Republican committee spent $128,090 on 370 30-second spots it purchased on Light’s behalf as part of a bid to take control of the 40-member state Senate from the Democrats and place the state government squarely in GOP hands.
“There was some really big money spent in the Senate campaigns [during the past election cycle] and the television stations loved it,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Politics.
…”This could have been the 21st seat for the Republicans,” Kondik said of the 38th District, for which Light and Puckett fought tooth and nail.
Had GOP lawmakers won this district as well, he added, they would have earned complete control of the state Senate without relying on Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, to cast a tiebreaking vote
Four of the five House Republicans who voted against this year’s bill to end teacher collective bargaining — along with independent former Republican Kent Williams — were from Northeast Tennessee.
So is Robert Houk, who devotes his Sunday column to the subject. He covers both those who voted against the prevailing Republican wind and those who went with it. Seems Houk’s sympathies lie with the former. Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, voted with the majority, telling his colleagues he considered himself to be a “statesman,” not a politician. Curiously, Hill showed himself to be neither a statesman nor a smart politician in voting to water down collective bargaining. Instead, he proved himself to be — above all – a partisan.
The same was true for Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, who despite expressing much angst over the plight of teachers, voted at crunch time to substantially weaken their collective voices at contact time.
In truth, no one really knows what the so-called collective conferencing act will mean to education in Tennessee. One TEA official told me last week it would take time to dissect the legislation, which she described as “vague” and “confusing.” The bill allows other organizations to take a seat at the bargaining table. (Just who these other organizations might be is not specified in the bill, nor does the legislation clearly spell out what can no longer be written into final agreements.)
The legislation does, however, change the rules that have guided contract negotiations between teachers and school boards since 1978. Williams said one of the reasons he voted against the legislation was that no one could explain to him why it is needed. “I asked how ending collective bargaining would help education, and nobody could answer my question,” Williams said.
What it will do, Williams said last week, is further demoralize teachers. Ford agreed. “That’s why I got up on the floor (of the House) and spoke against the bill,” Ford said. “It’s hard for me to look a teacher in the eye knowing they haven’t gotten a raise in three years.”
The attack on collective bargaining has nothing to do with bettering education in Tennessee. It’s simply a display of raw, naked power on the part of GOP leaders who are ticked off at the TEA.