Tennessee political action committees reached record levels in both number and in handing out contributions last year as the Legislature’s new Republican supermajority was elected, according to a report by the Registry of Election Finance.
A total of 611 PACs registered to donate to Tennessee’s state-level campaigns for 2012 and gave a total of $8,185,652 in contributions, almost all to candidates running for the state Legislature, the Registry said in its annual report.
The PACs spent another $2,003,603 in “independent expenditures,” which do not go directly to a campaign but are spent independently to help elect or defeat a legislative candidate. Typically, most is money spent on attack advertising.
That compares to 540 PACs registered in 2010 and making direct donations to candidates totaling $6,777,264 plus independent expenditures totaling $1,995,503. In 2010, there was also a gubernatorial election underway – unlike 2012 – and PACs were giving more money to Gov. Bill Haslam and other candidates. In 2012, only a couple of PACs donated early to Haslam’s 2014 re-election fund.
PACs thus spent a total of about $10.2 million in 2012 trying to influence campaigns compared to $8.9 million in 2010.
(Note: The Registry 2012 report is HERE; a list of all registered 2012 PACs and their donations, HERE.)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Education plans to use nearly $4 million in federal education funds to pay for eight leadership development programs.
The grants are part of the $500 million the state won three years ago in the national Race to the Top education grant competition.
Officials say eight recipients received grants, which were awarded to organizations in partnership with one or more school systems.
They are to be used to either develop or replicate programs aimed at increasing leader effectiveness and improving student outcomes.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said one main requirement of the grants was to show evidence that the proposed programs are sustainable.
Note: For a list of the grant recipients and programs forom the Department of Education, click on this link: TNLEAD_Grant_Recipients_Overview.pdf
TNReport has put together a list of top lobbyists at the state Legislature with a bit of commentary on each and a separate list of notable ‘lobbyists to watch in 2013.”
The list of top lobbyists:
David McMahan and Beth Winstead, of the firm McMahan, Winstead, Hafner and Alexander.
Brian, Mike and Steve Bivens, Bivens and Associates.
Nathan Poss and Bo Johnson, JohnsonPoss
Gif Thornton, Adams and Reese LLP
Jim Brown, National Federation of Independent Business
David Locke, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee
Nathan Green, RobinsonGreen LLC
The ‘lobbyists to watch’ list:
Matt King, King Public Strategies
Robert Gowan, Southern Strategy Group
Brent Easley, StudentsFirst
Pat Miller, former chief lobbyist for Gov. Phil Bredesen and former Tennessee Regulatory Authority director who is just starting as a lobbyist.
Steve Buttry, former state representative from Knoxville.
Jeff Van Dyke, AT&T
Here are the top Tennessee stories of 2012, as selected in voting by subscribers and staff of The Associated Press:
1. An outbreak of fungal meningitis and other diseases linked to tainted steroid shots leads to more than 80 cases and a dozen deaths in Tennessee. (October-December)
2. Pat Summitt, winningest coach in NCAA basketball, steps down as coach of the Lady Vols. (April 18)
3. Republicans win a supermajority in the state Legislature for first time since Reconstruction. (Nov. 6.)
4. Tennessee implements election changes, including redistricting and requiring photo identification for voters while a court allows Shelby County to use library card ID for general election. (January-November)
5. U.S Rep. Scott DesJarlais is hit with election-year revelations from his 2001 divorce that showed he dated patients, urged one of them to get an abortion, prescribed another one painkillers and consented when his ex-wife had two abortions. (October-November)
6. (tie) The triple-digit heat wave shatters high temperature records across the state. (June 25-30)
6. (tie) A mosque near Murfreesboro is allowed to open after opponents wage a two-year legal battle to stop it. (Aug. 10)
8. Two West Tennessee sisters, 12-year-old Alexandria and 8-year-old Kyliyah Bain, are recovered alive after their abductor killed their mother and sister and himself. (May 10)
9. Tennessee fires football coach Derek Dooley after his third losing season with the Volunteers (Nov. 18)
10. (tie) The Southern Baptist Convention votes to make the Rev. Fred Luter Jr. its first African-American president and to adopt an optional alternative name, Great Commission Baptists. (June 20)
10. (tie) Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell, three others plead guilty after undercover video show them soring, beating horses. (May)
Tennessee spends tens of millions of dollars on professional development for its 63,000 public school teachers but has little idea if it makes a difference or even exactly what it costs, according to the Commercial Appeal.
The state budgeted $148.2 million of its $500 million in Race to the Top funds for teacher training, $2,352 per teacher over four years. Researchers say there is not enough data to show the effect on student learning or to even evaluate the content, according to a legislative brief from the state Offices of Research and Education Accountability in the Comptroller’s office.
One of the biggest issues is that more than half of the money — $80 million — is managed by local districts for their own training programs.
“It’s very difficult to determine what is going to professional development and other programs,” said Rebecca Wright, a legislative research analyst who wrote the 14-page report.
“These are local-level issues. Unless you get it at the local level, you aren’t going to find a lot of information,” she said.
The report offers no recommendations. It is the second briefing this year from OREA on professional development for teachers. The first described laws and policies and how the training was structured before Race to the Top.
We’re still a couple of weeks away from year’s end, but the cycle of media re-reporting what happened during the year is underway.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Here are the top Tennessee news stories of 2011 as chosen by The Associated Press staff:
1. 37 die in April tornadoes.
2. Pat Summitt diagnosed with early onset dementia.
3. Lawmakers repeal teachers’ collective bargaining rights amid union, tea party protests.
4. (Tie) Occupy Nashville protesters gather at Capitol; win court battle to keep going.
4. (Tie) Mississippi River floods parts of Memphis, West Tennessee.
6. Bruce Pearl fired as Tennessee basketball coach.
7. Woman who spent 26 years on death row is released.
8. Former Gov. Ned McWherter dies.
9. Legislators approve photo ID for voting.
10. General Motors announces plans to restart assembly work at Spring Hill plant.
Note: The story accompanying the list, written by Joe Edwards, is below.
News release from state Department of Education:
NASHVILLE — Nine school districts and two nonprofit organizations today were awarded a total of $686,820 in Race to the Top funds by the Tennessee College Access and Success Network in its inaugural grant competition.
The network aims to establish a college-going culture in communities across the state by removing barriers to higher education, promoting college persistence, and increasing postsecondary completion rates for all Tennesseans. Driven by this mission, the network held its first grant competition to create new and expand existing college access and success programs. Schools and nonprofit organizations applied for three different grant opportunities: Seed Grant, Model Program Grant, and Catalyst Grant. The network received 66 grant applications from across the state, and the nine winning project proposals will serve more than 11,300 students and families across the state. School systems and nonprofits have proposed projects such as offering students ACT tutoring, taking them on college visits and paying for their college application fees.
Starting on the campaign trail, Gov. Bill Haslam has repeatedly promised a “top to bottom review” of state government. But a TNReport survey of all 25 state agencies reveals that just two have completed and made public their “top-to-bottom” departmental reviews
. The rest say those reports are either “under review” by their department or the administration or are still incomplete. Haslam’s office says the governor’s OK with that.
“It’s not a question of them being finished or not because this is a working process, and they are being reviewed,” said spokesman David Smith.
Results of the studies will be built into next year’s spending plan, he said, although those details are still being examined by the governor’s office.
In his inaugural address last January, the governor said his administration “will be diligent in watching the weight of state government, going on a diet of efficiency and effectiveness. State government will live within its financial means, and a Top to Bottom review will set priorities and establish measurable goals.”
News release from Comptroller’s Office:
Tennessee school districts are using Race to the Top funds to implement a wide variety of programs designed to improve student performance, according to a report released today by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA). Among other planned expenditures, school districts intend to use their shares of the money to fund instructional coaches with specialized training, incentive pay for teachers and leadership courses.
The report, “Scopes of Work: How Select Districts Are Using Race to the Top Funds,” profiles a sample of school districts and how they intend to spend their share of Race to the Top funds.
The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) awarded Tennessee approximately $500 million in Race to the Top funding in March of 2010. The funds will be distributed over a four-year period. USDOE required Tennessee to split the funds evenly between state and local expenditures. The $250 million for local expenditures will be distributed in grants based on scopes of work documents school districts filed with the Tennessee Department of Education.
Individual district grants range from approximately $44,665 (Richard City Special School District) to $68.6 million (Memphis City Schools). Most districts (70 out of 136) received grants between $500,000 and $2 million for the four-year period.
School districts’ scopes of work show considerable diversity, both in the programs and activities they have chosen to fund and the time frames for the expenditures. In total, districts chose to spend approximately $20 million for instructional coaches. These are experienced teachers with knowledge of research-based instructional strategies. They train school personnel and help implement best practices.
Other notable expenses included school leadership training, at $17.5 million, and differentiated pay plans, at $16.9 million. Differentiated pay plans offer bonuses, including performance or signing bonuses, which supplement teacher salaries and provide additional pay for teaching hard to staff subjects or hard to staff schools.
Many districts chose to frontload their spending in the first year of the grants and decrease spending incrementally over the next three years.
“School districts are spending their Race to the Top funds on a number of strategies for improving student achievement,” said Nneka Norman-Gordon, OREA legislative research analyst and co-author of the report. “Time will tell if these spending decisions have the desired effects. OREA will continue to monitor district results.”
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.
The legislative brief may be viewed at: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/OREA/
By Erik Schelzig
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ned McWherter, one of the most powerful Tennessee Democrats during his quarter century in public life, never got caught up in any of the FBI undercover investigations that pushed another governor out of office early and led to several prison sentences and suicides for others in his party.
The Associated Press obtained the 217-page FBI file on McWherter, who died in April, through a Freedom of Information Act request.
A 1995 background check into McWherter’s life and political career ruled out any involvement in an undercover investigation that rocked state government while he was governor.
“Although Mr. McWherter was surrounded by individuals who were involved in the bingo scam … he at no time was a subject, witness, or a target in the Rockytop investigation,” according to the memo.