From the Commercial Appeal:
Approval of revised standards for social studies in Tennessee would mean that all public school kindergartners would be required to know about Elvis. And David Crockett, Sequoyah, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson, Alvin C. York and Wilma Rudolph.
They would have to explain why we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.
High school students would have to wade into the “major ideas of philosophers and their effects on the democratic revolutions in England, the United States, France, and Latin America including but not limited to John Locke, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Simón Bolívar, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Thomas Jefferson.”
Of course, there’s a lot to learn in between. The proposed revision, the work of a committee of educators led by Jared Myracle, supervisor of 9-12 instruction with the Gibson County Special School District, is highly prescriptive and sweeping in its detail.
The revision was posted Tuesday on the state Department of Education website (tn.gov/education/curriculum) and is scheduled for first reading by the state Board of Education April 19. Public comments will be taken through April 26 on a survey embedded in the Department of Education website (tn.gov/education/curriculum).
It’s part of a wider effort to standardize public school curriculums throughout the state that is most pronounced in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math and English language arts/literacy that Tennessee adopted in 2010 — joining with 45 states and the District of Columbia in a program designed to set clear expectations of what students should know in each grade and subject.
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is eliminating its contract with an outside agency that trains social workers, reports WPLN. DCS is one of several state departments finding savings by doing more of its work in-house. The Tennessee Center for Child Welfare – which is affiliated with MTSU – plans to lay off 45 employees. It had a $14 million annual contract to provide training for DCS case workers.
Spokesperson Molly Sudderth says DCS can save several million dollars if it does its own training. That does require adding roughly 30 permanent positions. She expects many will be filled by longtime social-workers looking to advance their careers with the state.
“This gives them an opportunity to put their unique skill set, which is experience with those families, to good use training new young employees who might be coming up.”
Other state departments are also moving functions in-house to save money. TDOT Commissioner John Schroer says some of the design work for roads and bridges is returning to state employees, who can sometimes do it for half the cost. He says spending on consultants had tripled in a matter of five or six years.
President Barack Obama has pulled into a virtual tie with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in traditionally conservative Tennessee, according to a new Vanderbilt University pol.. The poll also found that Tennesseans weren’t thrilled with the Republican-led General Assembly’s frequent focus on social, cultural and religious issues this year. But Republican Gov. Bill Haslam managed to remain above the fray, winning approval from 61 percent of poll participants.
“Tennessee is clearly a red state,” said John Geer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt. “But these data show that the public is much more moderate than our state legislature.”
The poll of 1,002 Tennessee residents who are 18 and older found 42 percent would vote for Romney and 41 percent for Obama if the election were held now….Geer cautioned that the registered voters among the poll participants favored Romney by a larger margin, with 47 percent saying they would vote for the former Massachusetts governor and 40 percent for Obama. He said that’s a more likely outcome in November.
“It’s not that close a race,” Geer said, predicting Romney would prevail with little trouble. “I suspect a lot of hard-core conservatives are still getting used to the idea of Romney as the nominee, and by the time the general election comes along, they’ll be in lock step with Romney. But right now there’s a small chunk that are still being cautious.”
Three of every four poll participants said they were registered to vote.
…Just 15 percent said lawmakers “spent the appropriate amount of time addressing social, cultural or religious issues” during this year’s session, and 22 percent said they didn’t spend enough time on them. A larger number, 42 percent, said lawmakers spent too much time on such matters.
…Just 22 percent of the people surveyed said it was more important to protect the rights of handgun owners to carry their weapons into any commercial establishment than it was to protect the rights of business owners to set their own rules. More than 7 in 10 said the opposite.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday a compromise with the Tennessee State Employees Association on civil service reform legislation and plans to add about $28 million in spending to his proposed state budget for the coming year.
The governor’s proposed amendment to the state budget calls for increasing fees paid to local governments for housing prisoners in county jails, in part to reduce complaints about an administration bill to imposing longer sentences for repeat domestic violence offenders. Some local governments had protested what the called an “unfunded mandate” from the state, since they will have to cover the costs of keeping jailed offenders longer.
The increase in prisoner payments by $2 per day will cost the state an estimated $4 million per year. The increase in domestic violence sentences is projected to cost local governments collectively about $8 million per year.
Other changes in the$30.2 billion budget plan from the original version submitted in February include:
-The governor’s proposal to reduce the state sales tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent is revised to set the new rate at 5.25 percent next year. Under the Haslam plan, the rate would then fall to 5 percent in the following year. The change from 5.3 to 5.25 percent costs the state an estimated $3.3 million in lost revenue while saving consumer another nickel on a $100 grocery bill, or a total of 25 cents.
The surge in social conservative legislation dealing with sex, religion and guns, reports Chas Sisk, gives Republican lawmakers a chance to show where they stand and could help them head off the biggest challenge they face to re-election this year — a primary opponent who accuses them of having done too little to advance conservative causes. The pace of socially conservative bills has accelerated, as a deadline approaches for candidates to declare their candidacy this fall. Democrats are using the attention paid to those issues as a chance to attack Republicans as being more concerned with policing morality than managing the state’s economy.
“They’re preoccupied with sex up here,” Nashville Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said last week. “We’re about ready to put the turbans on and put the women in burkas, if we keep going at this rate.”
But Republicans are more likely to face a political reward than pay a price for their stances. Newly redrawn district maps mean most of them are safe from Democratic challengers, and they probably will be able to ride the coattails of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and the Republican presidential nominee at the top of the November ticket.
…For many Republicans, the biggest threat they face is the emergence of a primary opponent who attacks them for not being conservative enough. Republican lawmakers who can cinch the nomination in August face few obstacles to another term in November.
The deadline to enter the primary is April 5, and it may be no accident that legislators have turned to social issues at the same time they — and their potential opponents — are gathering signatures to appear on the ballot in the fall.
…Democrats have tried to capitalize on social issues by portraying themselves as the party of moderation.
“We’re making national news on all these crazy things. It’s just not good for the state of Tennessee,” said Turner, the Democratic Caucus chairman. “The social conservatives have control of the Republican Party. The conservative party used to be the party of the establishment. They’ve now become the anti-establishment party.
“It seems like they’re against everything, but when you win elections you have to stop playing politics. … They’re not governing.”
Republicans bristle at such comments. In the same week lawmakers debated abortion, evolution and sex education, they noted that they also worked out a plan to abolish the state’s estate tax by 2016, which they say will create jobs by encouraging wealthy retirees to remain in the state.
The House also advanced a Haslam administration bill to expand the state’s incentives for job creation, and they proceeded with legislation sought by business that calls for random audits of unemployment claims to make sure people are still looking for work. That bill also would bar inmates and people who fail a workplace drug test from receiving unemployment benefits.
“They’re not a distraction to me,” Harwell said of social issue legislation.
Legislation that critics see as a means of promoting creationism in classrooms was revived last week after a year of dormancy while a so-called “don’t say gay” bill suffered a setback that some supporters say is only temporary.
Having drawn national media attention, those two bills are perhaps the best-known and most controversial measures in a broad agenda of social conservative causes pushed by Republican legislators.
But they are not necessarily the most significant among the multiple bills with religious, moral and social overtones.
The bill on teaching of scientific theories in Tennessee schools – dubbed “the monkey bill” by the National Center for Science Education – passed the House last year. House Sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said it was to promote “critical thinking” about scientific theories by protecting teachers from discipline when they engage students in discussion about prevailing scientific theories such as evolution or global warming.
Going into Super Tuesday, it seemed possible that the Tennessee Republican primary tradition of conservatives splitting their votes to assure plurality victory for a moderate would hold true.
Coming out of Super Tuesday, just maybe a new normal has been achieved wherein the conservative wing of the Republican party can believe in better.
Rick Santorum rode a wave of social conservative support to victory in Tennessee’s Super Tuesday Republican presidential primary, overcoming the solid support for Mitt Romney from many state GOP leaders.
The Tennessee results were a disappointment for Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, who finished third in a state he had hoped would help his campaign rebound.
The results were also marked a rare win for a candidate who was hugely outspent in Tennessee campaigning. Pro-Romney forces, including a “Super PAC,” spent about $1.6 million advertising in the state – much of the money going to TV ads that attacked Santorum – while Gingrich’s forces spent about $470,000, according the most recently-reported figures.
Only about $100,000 was spent on Santorum advertising in the state, but the candidate had made trips to the state – the last including an appearance at a Memphis Baptist Church on Sunday. Romney visited Knoxville Sunday while Gingrich campaigned through East Tennessee on Monday.
“I think what he stands for is the closest to how Tennesseans feel about things,” said state Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who is co-chairman of the Santorum campaign in Tennessee.
“He is the candidate who recognizes you have to be both socicially conservative and fiscally conservative because, when morals go down, taxes go up,” said Dunn in an interview after Santorum’s Tennessee victory was clear.
Latest unofficial returns Tuesday night, with about 58 percent of the vote counted, showed former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Santorum with 38 percent of the total, followed by Romney with 28 percent. Gingrich had 23 percent followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul with 9 percent.
Fifty-five delegates will be sent to the Republican National Convention from Tennessee. It appeared Tuesday night that Santorum had won at least 19 of the 28 delegates that will be allocated on the basis of statewide results. The remaining 27 are based on the voting in each of the state’s nine Congressional districts and the allocation was unclear late Tuesday.
The Associated Press said exit polling of 1,769 Tennessee Republican primary voters found that about seven in 10 identified themselves as born-again Christians.. About three-quarters said it mattered at least somewhat that a candidate shared their religious beliefs.
Romney is a Mormon while Santorum is Catholic.
Dunn, a Catholic who accepts the born-again label for himself, said the born-again majority in Tennessee is not surprising and ties into the belief that “You have to fix your social problems or you’re never going to fix your money problems.”
Dunn was the first state legislator to endorse Santorum, though 11 others eventually joined him. Six backed Gingrich. Twenty-two state legislators backed Romney, including House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Gov. Bill Haslam served as chairman of the Romney campaign in Tennessee and traveled the state last week to urge support for the former Massachusetts governor. Romney was also backed by four of the state’s GOP congressmen – the others did not endorse anyone – along with Sen. Lamar Alexander, former Gov. Winfield Dunn and many of the state’s leading Republican fundraisers.
It remains to be seen how significant Santorum’s victory in Tennessee, one of ten state’s voting or holding caucuses on “Super Tuesday,” will be in the national presidential nomination picture. In 2008, Tennessee Republicans gave a state victory to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who presented himself as the most socially conservative candidate in that year’s campaign. Arizona Sen. John McCain finished as Tennessee runnerup in 2008 and went on to win the GOP nomination. Romney finished third in Tennessee’s 2008 contest.
President Obama was unopposed in the Democratic primary. State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester sent out a statement Tuesday night criticizing Romney, who many Democrats believe will be the ultimate winner of the Republican contest.
“Mitt Romney’s loss tonight shows that he is out-of-touch with Tennesseans and it raises serious concerns about his chances in November — if he can make it to the general election,” said Forrester. “Not only did he and Tennessee’s Republican establishment fail to convince GOP voters to support his candidacy; he also wounded himself among women, moderate and blue-collar workers, without whose support he simply cannot win.”
Center for Child Welfare to Close
The governor’s budget would effectively kill MTSU’s Center for Child Welfare by ending a contract with the Department of Children’s Services next fiscal year, reports the Daily News Journal. The center, which is responsible for training social workers across Tennessee, employs nearly 60 people who are based at the Bank of America building in Murfreesboro. It runs social worker training with eight universities across the state through a $14 million state contract with the Department of Children’s Services.
Interim Director John Sanborn predicted 80 to 90 people would lose jobs if the contract is not renewed. It is the center’s main contract and makes up 99 percent of its work.
“We will no longer exist if this happens,” Sanborn said.
Under Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget proposal, the state would see a savings of $11.7 million, some $3.1 million of which would be from the state level, according to a state spokeswoman.
DCS would bring the training service “in-house” and hire several positions to replace those lost through the Center for Child Welfare, Suddarth said.
— Family Service Agencies Cut
Some local folks are decrying a cut in Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed budget that could mean the end for the Family Resource Center, which provides a myriad of important services for Sevier County residents, reports the Mountain Press. A letter-writing campaign is being mounted in support of the local agency, which is led by Kim Loveday, and the 103 other ones across the state in hopes Haslam or state lawmakers will be swayed to save the funding. If he doesn’t, it could slash a big hole in a safety net that protects at-risk children, provides education for new parents, allocates resources to help pregnant teens and watches out for the elderly.
Loveday, an eternally busy woman who speaks quickly and with deep passion about the cause she leads, says there’s no certainty what will happen if the state funding is lost. While the agency also gets money from county and federal coffers, it’s unlikely those sources would be able to step up to cover the shortfall, meaning she may have to close her doors.
“We just don’t know because there could be a way that it survives, but who has the money right now to make that up? Everybody is trying to keep their budgets tight,” she says. “Right now it looks like all the centers are likely to be closed unless something is changed.”
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), November 30, 2011 — State Senators Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) today announced the introduction of a bill that will ensure 8th graders have learned the material necessary to start high school. Senate Bill 2156 will end the practice of social promotion for 8th graders. Social promotion is the practice of passing students to the next grade level even though those students have not mastered the material.
The bill expands upon Public Chapter Number 351 by Sen. Burks, which passed last year and ended the practice of social promotion for third graders. The legislation is the eighth in a series of announcements by Kelsey in his “12 for ’12” initiative for the next legislative session, which is set to reconvene January 10, 2012.
“Our high school students in Tennessee must enter the 9th grade with the skills they need to succeed,” said Sen. Kelsey. “Passing students regardless of their test scores sets these children up for failure. It denies them the quality education they deserve.”
Currently, over 20,000 students in grades 4 through 8 are promoted to the next grade every year without demonstrating a basic understanding of the curriculum or the skills tested by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, the end of year test administered in grades 3 through 8. Approximately 1,600 of those students are promoted from 8th to 9th grade.
Florida, which has proven a leader in education results, passed a similar bill in 2002. Students there who repeated third grade performed better than they would have if they had been passed to a higher grade. The improvement was measurable within only two years, according to a Colorado University study. The practice has also helped reduce racial gaps in education. Latino students in Florida now outperform all students in Tennessee.