By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Comptroller Justin Wilson’s move to automatically waive the first $25 in fees for public records requests is drawing praise from open government advocates.
The proposed rules, which would also give the comptroller the discretion to waive all costs related to public record searches and copies, were unanimously recommended for adoption by the Joint Government Operations Committees on Wednesday.
“The fee waiver provisions are progressive for Tennessee and should be a model for other state and local agencies,” said Frank Gibson, the founding director of the Tennessee Coalition on Open Government.
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Democratic legislative leaders requested in a letter that state election officials delay plans to certify August primary results after alarming reports of voting machines that defaulted to the Republican primary ballot.
“Voting apparatus should never default to one party or another,” the letter states. “We join citizens around the state who now doubt the outcome of the August elections in Davidson County, and we demand a full investigation. We also demand that plans to certify the election tomorrow be suspended.”
Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Lowe Finney, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh and House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner sent the letter to Secretary of State Tre Hargett Wednesday. An analysis of August turnout showed a 27 percent increase in Democratic turnout, compared to a 350 percent increase in Republican turnout.
“Frankly, it doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” the letter states.
The complete letter can be found here.
From The Tennessean:
Top state officials put off requests for portable toilets at War Memorial Plaza several days before Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration cited unsanitary conditions as a reason for implementing a curfew that prompted dozens of arrests.
Email records reviewed by The Tennessean indicate that both state and Metro officials received requests for portable toilets in the days preceding the arrests of Occupy Nashville protesters. The toilets were never installed until after the controversial arrests.
…An official with Mayor Karl Dean’s office contacted the state on Oct. 24 about a request for portable toilets, the records show. But General Services spokeswoman Lola Potter said Tuesday the state was still weighing the idea when Haslam’s administration instead instituted the curfew.
The curfew led to the arrests of 55 protesters, though last week the charges were dropped and the arrest records were expunged. A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order earlier this month and the Occupy Nashville protesters remain encamped on the plaza.
“I think it was an effort to dehumanize us so they could write their own script, but thankfully everything they’ve done so far has backfired,” Occupy Nashville member Dorsey Malina said.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Education is making some changes to a waiver that would allow the state to opt out of the No Child Left Behind law.
President Barack Obama announced in September that he’s giving states the option. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that 82 percent of schools in the country could be labeled failures next year if the law is not changed.
To get a waiver, states must agree to education reforms the White House favors — from tougher evaluation systems for teachers and principals to programs helping minority students.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters in a conference call Monday that the state’s waiver application requires more specificity and some new requirements, such as dividing schools into categories with targeted interventions or rewards for each group.
For instance, schools will be recognized for their high performance and rapid growth; then there will be those singled out for low proficiency and large achievement gaps between subgroups of students defined by race, economic status, disability and English proficiency.
Huffman said there will be an opportunity for those schools that are successful to share what they’re doing with struggling schools, which will be given the necessary resources by the state to improve.
“This will be challenging work, but our districts believe they can do this,” he said.
Huffman cited Memphis’ Booker T. Washington as a high school that has improved drastically.
Graduation rates at the school, which is in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood, have risen impressively in just three years. The school won a national competition to secure Obama as its commencement speaker in May by demonstrating how it overcame challenges through innovations such as separate freshman academies for boys and girls.
“Booker T. Washington High School is no longer a story about what’s gone wrong in education,” the president said in a weekly radio and Internet address a few days after the commencement. “It’s a story about how we can set it right. We need to encourage this kind of change all across America.”
“Those are the types of schools that I believe we can learn a lot from,” he said.
In July, preliminary results from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program showed math scores in third- through eighth-grade improved by 7 percent this year over last year. Reading scores improved by 3.7 percent.
In 18 school systems, student scores improved by 20 percent or more.
Still, under current No Child Left Behind guidelines, the state is only 41 percent proficient in math for those grades, and 48.5 percent in reading.
Tennessee was to submit its waiver application late Monday.
Education Department spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier has said that waivers are to be submitted by November so that they can be approved or denied by the end of the year.
Gov. Bill Haslam acknowledged the waiver process has taken longer than he expected, but believes it is “really important to Tennessee, both in principle that the state should be able to decide, but in reality, we have enough going on right now without schools abiding by some policies that they know they can’t make.”