Legislative Week Ahead 2/11-2/14

Here is a look at the schedule for the week ahead. Bills are starting to trickle into committees. Remember that the bill filing deadline in Feb. 14.

Tuesday – 02/12/13 – 12:00pm – LP 16 – House Education Committee

There are no bills on notice in House Education. There will be presentations from the following people:

Tennessee Charter Schools Association, Matt Throckmorton, Executive Director

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Robert C. Enlow, President

CEO Putnam County Schools Virtual Learning Center, Jerry Boyd, Director of Schools, Sam Brooks, Virtual Learning Coordinator, Dr. Sharon Anderson, 7-12 Curriculum Supervisor

Tuesday – 02/12/13 – 3:00pm – LP 30 – House Education Subcommittee.

The subcommittee will take up nine bills.

1.HB702 M. White
Extends from 10 days to 20 days the time for appeal from a decision denying an application from the LEA to the state board of education..

2.HB839 T. Weaver
Age requirements for pre-K and Kindergarten. Changes the date that an at-risk child must be four years old by to enroll in prekindergarten programs. Allows children who have participated in private school prekindergarten programs and Head Start prekindergarten programs, in addition to LEA prekindergarten programs, to enter kindergarten in the 2013-2014 or 2014-2015 school years.

3.HB369 G. Johnson
Gives teachers who teach in multiple subject areas until July 1, 2014, to pass the content area tests in the subject areas in which they are teaching.

4.HB249 D. White
Allows special education teachers and alternative school teachers who teach in more than one subject area in which there is an end of course examination until July 1, 2014, to pass the content area tests in the subject areas in which they are teaching

5.HB151 G. McCormick (Administration bill)
Enrollment caps for virtual schools. Prohibits initial enrollment in a public virtual school from exceeding 1,500 students. Requires that students residing outside the LEA establishing the virtual school represent no more than twenty-five percent of the virtual school’s enrollment. Establishes that a public virtual school may exceed the total enrollment and out-of-district enrollment caps if the school demonstrates student achievement growth at a minimum level of “at expectations” as represented by the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System. Prohibits the total enrollment from ever exceeding 5,000 students. Grants the commissioner the authority to reinstitute enrollment caps or direct the LEA to close the school when a public virtual school identified as a priority school demonstrates student growth at a level of “significantly below expectations.”

6.HB366 D. Hawk
Requires each center of regional excellence (CORE) and the LEAs it serves to establish a regional virtual school.

7.HB385 H. Love Jr.
Requires public virtual schools to meet the same class size requirements as regular public schools.

8.HB421 J. Pitts
Permits the commissioner of education to place any virtual school that fails to meet the performance standards set by the state board of education in the achievement school district.

9.HB728 M. Stewart
Terminates the Virtual Public Schools Act on June 30, 2013 rather than June 30, 2015 as is in current law.

Wednesday – 02/13/13 – 3:00pm – LP 12 – Senate Education Committee

Presentation:

CHAIR OF EXCELLENCE IN DYSLEXIC STUDIES
MR. JIM HERMAN AND MS. KATHERINE DAVIS MURFREE OF MTSU

The committee will take up eight bills:

1. SB8 by Summerville
Enacts the “Higher Education Equality Act” to prevent institutions of higher education from granting preferences based on race, gender or ethnicity to students, employees or contractors. –

2. SB19 by Tracy
Establishes an additional award, the STEM stipend, from net lottery proceeds for Tennessee HOPE scholarship recipients who are majoring in STEM fields; sets STEM stipend at $1,000 for the 2013-2014 academic year subject to appropriation and sufficient net lottery proceeds.

3. SB208 by Gresham
Enacts the “Military Education Assistance for Tennessee Act,” which provides eligibility for in state tuition to certain honorably dischargedveterans; creates tuition waiver program for members of the Tennessee state guard with at least one year of service and tuition discount program for the spouses of such members.

4. SB233 by Kelsey
As introduced, allows an LEA, in its discretion, to determine whether to continue employment of a nontenured teacher who taught in a school prior to the school’s transfer to the ASD.

5. SB531 by Dickerson
Includes the full ACT report of each LEA to the annual report published by the commissioner of education; requires the report to be published on the department of education web site.

6. SB532 by Dickerson
As introduced, changes the release date of the state report card from November 1 to October 1; revises the provisions governing the performances goals and assessments by requiring the department of education to provide raw test score data and teacher effect data to LEAs no later than May 1.

7. SB538 by Bell
Changes the definition of “homeschool student” for purposes of the Tennessee HOPE scholarship to require that a student be home schooled the last year of high school instead of the last two years of high school.

8. SB547 by Bell
Prohibits displaying messages supporting or opposing referenda and initiatives on LEA or school signs or LEA-owned buildings; prohibits video or audio messages supporting or opposing referenda and initiatives being sent via LEA or school telephonic or electronic systems or accounts.

 

Guns in Schools Legislation Review

There are four bills (could be more out there) that I am currently tracking that deal with guns in schools.  I wanted to break down these bills so that you can keep an eye on them. Some of these bills deal only with guns, but some can take away funding from schools if they don’t comply. As we have seen from the Great Hearts drama, the Tennessee Department of Education will withhold funds.

1. SB77/HB633 Faculty and staff allowed to carry firearms. By Senator Stacey Campfield and Representative Joshua Evans.

This legislation would allow faculty or staff, if properly trained, to carry firearms on K-12 public school property. If staff wants to carry a firearm, they must receive the same training that a school resource officer would have to complete. The Tennessee Code Annotated lists this as the training SROs most go through.

TCA 49-6-4217: Employment standards for school resource officers.

(a)  Training courses for school resource officers shall be designed specifically for school policing and shall be administered by an entity or organization approved by the peace officers standards and training (POST) commission.

(b)  School resource officers shall participate in forty (40) hours of basic training in school policing within twelve (12) months of assignment to a school. Every year thereafter they shall participate in a minimum of sixteen (16) hours of training specific to school policing that has been approved by the POST commission.

(c)  Within thirty (30) days of the beginning of the school term, each LEA shall publish and deliver to the commissioner an annual report of the employment standards adopted by the LEA. The report shall include a description of the LEA’s methods of enforcing the employment standards.

The bill also states that staff can only carry guns if there are no SROs in that school. Finally, the bill states that if the LEA bans guns, they are civilly liable for any criminal activity that takes place.

(B) Any local education agency that prohibits persons from possessing and carrying a handgun pursuant to subdivision (f)(2)(A) shall be civilly liable for any damages, personal injury or death that results from a criminal act by any person not authorized to be in the school in which the prohibition was in effect.

This bill does give local control to the individual LEAs to make the decision to allow staff to carry guns at school. It looks like many counties around middle Tennessee are trying to add SROs into every school. If a school district has SROs in every school, the LEA cannot allow guns in any school.

2.SB472/HB504 Requires SRO or similarly trained staff in every school. By Senator Frank Nicely and Representative Eric Watson.

This bill is very similar to the bill above. It would require each LEA to have a school resource officer OR similarly trained staff. A school district could save money by not hiring a SRO but allow a staff member to be trained.

The most important part of this bill comes next.

(c) If an LEA fails to establish a plan in compliance with this section or fails to follow a plan established pursuant to this section, the commissioner may withhold state funds, in an amount determined by the commissioner, from the LEA until the LEA is in compliance.

Yes. You have read that correctly. If a school decides not to have an armed staff member or SRO in their school, Kevin Huffman could withhold funds. As Nashville knows, that could end up in the millions.

3. SB481/HB324 Teachers may go armed. By Senator Janice Bowling and Representative Joe Carr.

This piece of legislation goes further than the previous two. This legislation would allow any employee of a pre-K or K-12 to carry a firearm if they meet certain requirements. Even if there is a SRO in the school, staff may still go armed.

The employees must meet these requirements:

  1. Have approval from the School Board.
  2. Posses a hand gun carry permit.
  3. Complete SRO training at least one year before school board approval.
  4. The LEA must notify the commissioner of education three times a year.

This bill also has local control. The staff member must get approval from the local school board before they can go armed. The school board could deny that request.

4. SB570/HB6 Allows K-12 school personnel to possess a firearm at school. By Senator Nicely and Representative Eric Watson.

This bill has some differences from the other Nicely/Watson bill including the types of bullets, the type of training, and liability coverage.

Here are the requirements to be able to possess a firearm at school:

  1. Must be a hand gun permit holder.
  2. Must take a 40 hour basic police training that is approved by the LEA. This is different than the SRO training that previous bills have cited.
  3.  Must use frangible bullets or similar bullets, as approved by the  Peace Officers Standards and Training commission.
  4. This part deals with the liability if the teacher hurts or kills someone.

(B) No local school district in which the director of schools authorizes a faculty or staff member to possess or carry a firearm pursuant to this  subdivision (e)(8) shall be held liable in any civil action for damages,
injuries, or death resulting from or arising out of a faculty or staff member’s actions involving a firearm carried or possessed on school property unless the board of education or superintendent knew of or
intentionally solicited or procured the faculty or staff member’s actions involving a firearm that resulted in the harm.

I am no lawyer, but this reads that a LEA cannot be held liable if a teacher accidentally shoots and kills a student unless the LEA “solicited or procured” the staff members actions.

That’s the first look at the guns in schools legislation. It is a long process to becoming law and many of these bills could change drastically with amendments. Keep following Tennessee Education Report for updates regarding these bills.

 

 

 

 

Legislative Week Ahead for Education Committees

Here is a look at the legislative week ahead for the Education Committees.

Tuesday – 12:30pm – LP 16 – House Education Committee

The House Education Committee will hear from Brent Easley of StudentsFirst. Brent Easley is a former Senior Research and Policy Analyst for the House Republican Caucus who recently took the post of State Director for StudentsFirst.

The committee will take up House Joint Resolution 10 (Deberry), which designates January 27-February 2, 2013, as “School Choice Week” in Tennessee.

Wednesday – 2:00pm – LP 12 – Senate Education Committee

The committee will take up three items.

1. SJR17- Gresham- Recognizes importance of neurological or brain science in the training of teacher candidates and encourages such training in teacher prep programs in state universities.

2. SB18 -Gresham – As introduced, prohibits an LEA or school from adopting an attendance policy that exempts students who have been absent less than a specified number of days from taking examinations or tests required of other students.

3. SB59 -Gresham- As introduced, authorizes and encourages teacher training programs at public institutions of higher education to offer coursework on neurological or brain science research.

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John Deberry and the Parent Trigger Bill

State Representative John DeBerry (D-Mempis) has filed the first parent trigger bill of the session. DeBerry, who survived his primary challenge thanks to over $112,000 from StudentsFirst, rewrites the current parent trigger laws in his bill (Yes, we already have trigger laws on the books). House Bill 77* lowers the threshold, from 60 percent to 51 percent, for how many signatures the parents must have before the school can be turned over to a charter. The bill is only for eligible public schools that are in the bottom twenty percent of the state in student academic performance. This bill is exactly what StudentsFirst wants to happen in Tennessee. StudentsFirst recently held a screening for the movie “Won’t Back Down” in Nashville. The movie, which is about two women who want to convert their failing inner city school over to a charter school, was attended by many political figures.  Huffington Post reported that “Won’t Back Down” set the record for worst opening of a film that released in over 2,500 theaters.

While StudentsFirst wants Tennessee to make it easier to “pull the trigger”, The Nashville City Paper reported that the current law has only “been in play” two times since the law was put on the books in 2002. The first in Memphis in 2007 when a school was turned over to a charter and is currently taking place in Knoxville, where a charter school is trying to take over a school after the charter was denied by the school board. Deberry is trying to change the law that has rarely been used.

Deberry has also filed a resolution to designate January 26 – February 2013 as “School Choice Week” in Tennessee.

*Senator Reginald Tate (D-Mempis) has filed the companion bill, SB483. Senator Tate is the 1st Vice-Chair for the Senate Education Committee.