News release from Beacon Center of Tennessee:
NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee today released its eighth annual Tennessee Pork Report, exposing more than $511 million squandered by state and local governments over the past year. The annual report published by the Beacon Center, the state’s leading free market think tank and taxpayer watchdog, is the only one of its kind in Tennessee.
Examples of wasteful spending outlined in the 2013 Pork Report include:
•A corporate welfare deal gone sour, costing taxpayers $95 million after Hemlock Semiconductor closed its plant and laid off hundreds of workers;
•$73 million in improper unemployment benefits, including cash paid to existing state workers and the deceased, of which only $15.3 million has been recouped;
•Wasteful film incentives to Hollywood elites totaling $13.5 million;
By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An independent monitor for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services says the agency’s progress in 2012 was disappointing.
The Technical Assistance Committee reports to a federal judge on DCS’ performance as part of a 2001 settlement over the agency’s treatment of foster children.
Among other things, the 2012 report found that workers took too long to make contact with child victims. In the highest priority cases, where children were considered potentially to be in imminent danger, caseworkers made contact within the required 24 hours between about 30 and 70 percent of the time.
The report also found that young people who were aging out of foster care were not being prepared to transition to adulthood.
According to a review of independent living plans:
A recent U.S. Department of Justice report says that youths in Tennessee juvenile correction facilities are at greater risk of being sexually victimized than the national average, reports the Tennessean. The report estimates that 9.5 percent of youths in state and private correctional facilities across the nation, or just more than 1,700 youths, were sexually victimized in 2011-12. The rate for Tennessee facilities was 13 percent.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics compiled the numbers through surveys of 326 facilities across the country. Nearly 8,700 youths responded to the sexual victimization part of the survey.
The report defines sexual victimization as forced sexual activity between youths and all sexual activity involving youths and staff.
Of the four Tennessee facilities surveyed, John S. Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville had the highest rate of estimated sexual victimization, at 19.5 percent, up from 16.3 percent in 2010, when the bureau published a similar study. Three years ago, the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center had one of the highest rates in the county, at 26 percent.
News release from state Comptroller’s Office:
In the 2012 Report of Cash Shortages, auditors found that $563,372.50 of funds stolen from county governments, some dating back several years, had not been recovered. Details about the missing money can be found in the report, which was released today.
The news in the report wasn’t all bad: For the reporting period, auditors reported new thefts of $106,495.27 – down from $213,635.66 the year before. And – thanks to the recovery of $279,817.21 last year – the statewide balance of uncollected funds dropped from $736,694.44 cited in last year’s report to $563,372.50 in this year’s report.
Information about cash shortages is collected from the annual financial reports and special reports for the state’s 89 counties audited by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit and the six counties audited by private accounting firms.
In addition to a county-by-county breakdown of cash shortages, the report also provides explanations of how the shortages were detected, how the money was stolen, corrective steps taken by counties and legal actions taken against those responsible for the thefts.
“While it is good to see that the number of new thefts was down last year and a substantial amount of money was recovered, there’s absolutely no reason to be complacent about these statistics,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “It’s important for our local government officials to constantly remain on guard against the potential theft of taxpayer money. That means they need to have good checks and balances – what our auditors refer to as ‘internal controls’ – in their procedures for how money is collected, recorded, deposited and spent. If adequate safeguards aren’t in place, the amount of stolen money identified in future cash shortage reports is likely to rise.”
To view the report online, go to: http://comptroller.tn.gov/repository/CA/2012/2012%20Cash%20Shortage%20Report.pdf
News release from TBI:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its annual study dedicated to crime in Tennessee’s schools. Produced by TBI’s Crime Statistics Unit, the study spans a three-year period between 2010 and 2012 and is based on crime data submitted by Tennessee law enforcement agencies to the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System (TIBRS).
The reported number of crimes that occurred at schools decreased by 12 percent from 2011 to 2012 with 12,477 offenses reported in 2011 to 10,980 offenses reported in 2012. Examination of 2010 through 2012 data revealed a 16.5 percent drop in crime reported at schools over a three year period. This report is based on incidents submitted by law enforcement agencies and excludes offenses reported by colleges and universities. Those statistics are compiled in TBI’s “Crime on Campus” report that was released earlier this year. “School Crimes Report” Quick Facts
•Simple assault was the most frequently reported crime at 3,956 or 36 percent of offenses.
•Of the 3,930 weapons reported at schools, 82 were firearms.
•Crimes against persons made up the largest majority, nearly 50 percent, of reported school crimes.
•More crimes occurred on Thursday than any other day of the week and the month of February had the highest frequency of school crime.
•47% of the time, the relationship between the offender and victim was acquaintance.
•Marijuana greatly outnumbered all other seized drugs at school in 2012 accounting for nearly 75 percent of drug seizures.
It is important to understand the characteristics surrounding school crime and its offenders and victims. This understanding will help schools, policy makers, law enforcement and the public learn how to better combat crime that occurs at these institutions. To view the “School Crimes Report” for 2011 in its entirety, click here.
News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its annual “Crime in Tennessee 2012” report which showed a 2.8% decrease in overall crimes reported in Tennessee in 2012 compared with 2011. This is third year in a row that reported offenses decreased when compared with the previous year.
For the 2012 calendar year, 566,601 Group A offenses were reported compared with 583,022 in 2011. The largest majority of crimes reported were committed against property at more than 57% which is a decrease of 5.8% from the previous year. Crimes against persons also decreased nearly 1% however, crimes against society increased 6.3%. With an estimated population of more than 6.4 million people, Tennessee has seen crime drop a total of approximately 3.5% since 2010. “Crime in Tennessee 2012” Fact List
· The reported number of murders increased by approximately 1.5%. This is the second year in a row Tennessee has seen an increase in its number of homicides.
· A total of 29,093 people were arrested for DUI in 2012 which is an increase from 2011. There were 162 juveniles arrested for DUI in 2012.
· Domestic violence offenses made up more than 51% of all crimes against persons.
· Reported number of aggravated assault offenses increased by almost 8%.
· Of the 168,929 arrests made for Group A offenses across the state about 70% of the arrestees were male compared with 30% female.
· Juveniles comprised 8.2% of total arrests — a decrease of more than 15% in Group A offenses since 2010.
· 18-24 year olds accounted for nearly 35% of drug/narcotic violations.
TBI strongly discourages the use of crime data to compile rankings of individual jurisdictions due to the many underlying factors that cause crimes to occur such as population density, climate, cultural conditions and strength of law enforcement. It is also important to note that attitudes of citizens toward crime can affect the reporting practices of residents, and therefore, affect crimes coming to the attention of law enforcement.
To view “Crime in Tennessee 2012” in its entirety, click here to go to the TBI’s Statistical Analysis Center webpage. Up-to-date 2012 statistics can also be accessed at www.tncrimeonline.com.
The national spotlight on Knoxville legislator Stacey Campfield burned brighter (and, perhaps, lighter) Thursday with a segment on the lawmaker’s latest homosexuality in the classroom bill by comedian and political satirist Stephen Colbert.
Colbert suggested Thursday on Comedy Central’s “The Cobert Report” cable television show that Tennessee State Sen. Campfield could be the perfect presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2016.
In a segment called “Mr. Smith Goes to the State Legislature – Stacey Campfield,” Colbert praised Campfield for his “heroic work protecting our students’ morals.”
“Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield goes after sexuality in schools and the freeloadiest of all American freeloaders,” the caption for the video says on the Colbert Report website.
(Note: This post from the News Sentinel website.)
Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit organization that declares itself dedicated to state and local government transparency, has released a 2013 Transparency Report Card grading every state and the largest counties, cities and school districts within each state on the availability of information on government websites.
Government websites were graded “A” to “F” measuring available content available against a checklist of information all governments should provide to citizens.
Tennessee gets a grade ‘B’ overall and ranked 24th in the nation. Tennessee’s graded counties got a ‘B-‘ and cities a ‘C+’.
The full report is HERE. H/T Mike Donila, who posts some commentary on Knoxville and Knox County ratings.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
Four Tennessee school districts have joined a small but growing group of districts nationwide that are experimenting with alternative ways to pay teachers, a new report released today by the Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) highlights.
Alternative salary plans base teacher pay increases on positive performance ratings rather than on years of service and graduate degrees earned, which are the basis for traditional salary plan increases. Alternative salary plans allow effective teachers to earn higher salaries more quickly than they would under traditional plans. The report, titled Trends in Teacher Compensation: Focus on Alternative Salary Schedules, details how the alternative plans work, what characteristics they share and how they differ from the more common performance bonuses.
The four Tennessee districts – Johnson County, Lexington City, Putnam County, and Trousdale County – that implemented their alternative salary plans in the 2011-2012 school year are scheduled to be joined by three more districts next fall: Haywood, Lincoln and Polk County schools.
Research suggests that the factors used to set traditional teacher salary schedules – years of service and graduate degrees – have limited value as indicators of teacher effectiveness. Tennessee law requires the adoption a state minimum salary schedule for teachers based on experience and training. However, the law was revised as part of the 2010 First to the Top legislation to allow local districts to develop alternative schedules, subject to state approval.
Alternative salary plans allow districts to recognize more effective teachers based on performance measures such as classroom evaluations and increases in students’ test scores. They are generally considered a more financially sustainable way to reward high-performing teachers than paying performance bonuses on top of traditional salary increases. The new plans restructure the salary schedule, eliminating automatic increases for all teachers to redirect more pay to the more effective teachers.
The report found that most alternative salary plans, including those in Tennessee, also feature individual or group bonuses for specific objectives such as meeting student achievement targets, teaching high-needs subjects or in high-needs schools, performing leadership duties or completing professional development goals. The report includes descriptions of the alternative plans in use in Tennessee and selected other districts and states.
Interest in alternative salary plans has been spurred by federal grants, like Teacher Incentive Fund and Race to the Top, and by private funders. In 2010, Tennessee received grants totaling $72 million over five years from the Teacher Incentive Fund and in 2012, the state received another $5.5 million grant. The state has also directed some $12 million of its Race to the Top Grant for a special fund to support districts that want to design and implement alternative salary schedules.
Officials in the districts using the new pay plans indicate that the new plans are more complex to administer and budget and require adequate data systems. Because alternative pay plans are based on teacher performance, the fairness, accuracy and reliability of teacher evaluations can receive additional scrutiny. Districts adopting these pay plans see them as a better way to target resources to recruit and retain the most effective teachers.
OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.
To view the full report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/
News release from state comptroller’s office:
Methamphetamine production continues in small laboratories in Tennessee and elsewhere around the country in spite of new laws regulating and tracking the sale of pharmacy products used to manufacture the illegal drug.
That is one of the findings of a report released today by the Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability about attempts to control access to legal products sold at pharmacies which are later used to create methamphetamine. Pseudoephedrine, the most common of the so-called “precursor” products used in manufacturing the drug, is an ingredient in many over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies. The report cautions that the relatively short history of precursor control policies and the limitations of available crime and drug use data make it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of particular precursor control laws on the production of methamphetamine in small labs.