Teacher Appreciation

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s a time to provide lunches and gift cards to teachers in lieu of the salaries and support they deserve. Sure, gratitude is nice, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage.

Here’s what else happened in Tennessee this week: We learned that the Speaker of the House gave a $130,000 raise to an individual who had used cocaine while on the job and who had also exchanged sexually-explicit messages with the Speaker. He also has a history of racist text messages and social media posts.

Before his nearly $200,000 year a job as Speaker Casada’s Chief of Staff, Cade Cothren earned around $61,000 a year as a legislative employee.

It’s worth noting that many of Tennessee’s more than 70,000 teachers will NEVER see a salary of $61,000 a year in the course of their career.

For full disclosure, I’m married to a Tennessee teacher. She’s been teaching for nearly 20 years now. She’s been at the same school in the same job since 2003. She STILL doesn’t make $60,000 a year despite assurances from district leadership year after year that “we *wish* we could do more.”

My wife doesn’t do cocaine at her desk. She’s not in the habit of sending sexually explicit messages about who she f***d in the bathroom at a hot chicken restaurant. She shows up every single day and takes care of other people’s children.

Let’s be clear: If the text exchange between Cade Cothren and Glen Casada had been between a Tennessee teacher and her principal, there would be no question, both would be fired.

So, let’s be honest: Tennessee teachers are NOT appreciated. White men of any age at the highest levels of state government engage in abhorrent behavior and earn promotions and high salaries. Tennessee teachers, mostly women, take on the responsibility of caring for our state’s children and educating them every single day and receive little more than a “thank you” during a designated week of the year.

This year, instead of a larger raise for teachers, Governor Bill Lee proposed and the General Assembly passed legislation creating a new school voucher program. Instead of a minimum of a four percent increase in teacher raises, teachers will see 2.5%. When white men in Tennessee ask for something, they get it — whether it is school privatization or sex with a lobbyist in a Nashville restaurant. Meanwhile, the women who toil tirelessly in under-funded schools are told to “keep going” for the sake of “the kids.”

When teachers in Tennessee threaten to “strike” or engage in a “sick out” they are told it’s “against the law” and that they should “think of the kids.” At the same time, white men prey upon female interns and lobbyists at the Capitol and our supposedly Christian Governor can’t be bothered to comment. Even an admitted sex offender earns a top post on education policy while teachers remain short-changed when it comes to pay and respect.

It’s no accident that a profession dominated by women receives so little respect from our legislature and Governor. These are white men who have demonstrated time and again they care little for the women around them. Even those not directly involved are complicit by way of their silence. Both in policy and in personal practice, Tennessee’s elected leaders demonstrate they don’t care about teachers, about women, or about a truly better future for ALL of our state.

When you see Governor Lee trot out a resolution appreciating teachers — when Glen Casada or Randy McNally issue a proclamation about the importance of educators — it’s time to call BS. They don’t believe it. The evidence is clear.

Today, teachers across our state are showing up, teaching kids, and NOT doing cocaine or soliciting sex. They’re not asking for a reward, they’re just doing what’s right. It’s time our lawmakers looked to our teachers for leadership.

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Elizabethton Students Win NPR Podcast Challenge

A group of students from Elizabethton High School won the high school division of NPR’s student podcast challenge. More from NPR:

In 1916, people hanged a circus elephant from a crane in Erwin. The students of nearby Elizabethton High School, in their winning podcast, told the bizarre story — and how people there today want to make things right.

“Through researching and talking to some of Erwin’s people, we have learned how they are determined to change how people think about Erwin and its tragic history,” the podcast concludes.

“This podcast took me on a journey,” says Lee Hale, one of our judges and a reporter at member station KUER in Utah. “Halfway in, I forgot I was judging a student competition because I got so wrapped up in the story. The voices, the pacing, the arc — everything worked.”

The work was submitted by English teacher Tim Wasem and social studies teacher Alex Campbell. When we broke the good news to Wasem, he said, “They really had a story they wanted to tell, and they wanted to tell it right.”

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April 15th

A group of parents gathered at the Tennessee General Assembly today to express opposition to the use of public funds to pay for unaccountable private schools. The move comes as Governor Bill Lee’s privatization plans — through both a state charter school authorizer and so-called education savings accounts — advance in the legislature.

The assembled parents called for a statewide action on April 15th — the first day of the TNReady testing window. Frustration about the state’s failed testing and persistent underfunding of schools was expressed.

Here’s more from Tennessee Strong, the umbrella group of parent advocates coordinating the action:

TN PTA on Trauma Informed Communities

Below is the official position statement of the Tennessee PTA on Trauma Informed Communities:

As the momentum grows for Tennessee to be a trauma informed state and build awareness within our communities about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Tennessee PTA is supportive of the efforts our state government, business world, advocates, insurers, and academia and nonprofit foundations for the initiative of our state to be a national model of how a state can promote culture change.

Tennessee PTA board of managers believes that any substantiated or admitted allegations of sexual misconduct, spouse abuse, or habitual drug abuser of any member of a decision-making body in educational affairs cannot participate and are not allowed to be a part of the process that contributes to the welfare, health, safety and education of children. This perspective aids in focusing on the root causes of the systemic issues that run rampant through individuals, families and communities when the issues go unaddressed.

Tennessee PTA board of managers believes the exploitation of youth degrades humans and damages the cognitive, social and emotional development of the individual and has adverse consequences for the individual, family and community in which citizens live.

As a state who is working toward leading a National Model of being trauma informed about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) we must be mindful of the collective affects the community has on individual situations that lead to Adverse Community Environments.

Tennessee PTA board of managers advocates for policies and programs to help meet the basic needs of children and families. We promote research, training and public education to strengthen proactive and responsive factors that buffer indicators for sexual abuse while also directly addressing the root causes of individual situations.

As a major advocacy agent for youth, parents and educators we applaud the state in the progressive strides of raising awareness and implementing strategies that support appropriate responses to ACEs.

We continue to encourage our state government and all individuals in the educational arena to reflect the ideals of the true nature of appropriately responding to the root causes and publicly mirroring those behaviors in order to model the desired behaviors this state is aiming to provide for the Nation.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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Loser Teachers


Tennessee Teachers:

Just wanted to be sure you knew that Team Trump thinks you are all losers and socialists. Don’t take my word for it, listen to Donald Trump, Jr. explain:

 

 

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Sorry


Chalkbeat has the story of Nashville school board member Will Pinkston’s essay on Tennessee’s Race to the Top experience and his role in the application process.

I’ll dig into the essay and provide thoughts and analysis soon, but here’s a key part of the introduction Chalkbeat highlighted:

I see in retrospect the mistake that I made while working on Race to the Top. I feel equal parts guilty and sad about it. In my view, the problem isn’t that Race to the Top’s fundamentals were flawed. No one can argue with the need for rigorous K-12 academic standards and aligned tests, effective school turnaround strategies and a focus on great teachers and school leaders. But Race to the Top jumped the rails when a cast of radical reformers hijacked the agenda during political transitions. Bad actors began working overtime to dismantle public schools. Here in Tennessee, our largest school systems — in Memphis and Nashville — became part of ground zero in the country’s civil war over public education, joining embattled school systems in cities like Los Angeles, Milwaukee and New Orleans.

Pinkston is highly critical of the Haslam Administration and failed education commissioners Kevin Huffman (who couldn’t resist attacking teachers) and Candice McQueen (who couldn’t get a handle on the state’s testing system).

 

 

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I Will Survive


A lawsuit challenging the adequacy of the state’s school funding formula will keep moving forward despite a last-ditch effort by Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Attorney General Herb Slatery to derail the effort.

Chalkbeat reports:

A school funding lawsuit that has hung over Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration for more than three years has survived a third attempt in six months to kill it, including a “Hail Mary” legal maneuver before Tennessee’s Court of Appeals.

In the waning days before the Republican governor leaves office on Jan. 19, the appellate court denied Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery’s request to consider an appeal for dismissal.

The third strike increases the likelihood of a 2019 trial over whether the state adequately funds its K-12 schools — a question that could have far-reaching implications for Tennessee’s system of funding public education.

Despite Haslam’s claims that he’s made valiant efforts to increase school funding, a look at relevant data indicates Tennessee still has a long way to go to adequately fund schools:

To translate, in 2010 (the year before Bill Haslam became Governor), Tennessee spent an average of $8877 per student in 2016 dollars. In 2016 (the most recent data cited), that total was $8810. So, we’re effectively spending slightly less per student now than in 2010. The graph indicates that Tennessee spending per student isn’t really growing, instead it is stagnating. Further evidence can be found in noting that in 2014, Tennessee ranked 43rd in the nation in spending per student. In 2015, that ranking dropped to 44th. 2016? Still 44th

It will be interesting to see how the lawsuit proceeds and what the outcome will mean for school funding in Tennessee.

 

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Getting Ready for 2019!


Since 2013, Tennessee Education Report has provided in-depth coverage of education news and detailed analysis of how policy change impacts our schools, teachers, and students.

As we turn toward 2019 with a new Governor and a vastly different legislature, TN Ed Report will be there — covering the proposals, policies, and changes that impact our state’s schools.

Providing consistent coverage at a high level requires an intense commitment of time and energy.

Having the support of readers makes that commitment possible.

Would you consider becoming a sustaining supporter? Even just $3 a month helps make consistent education reporting possible.

If you’d prefer, you can easily make a one-time contribution of $10 or more today.

I’m committed to bringing current, relevant education news to you. Your support makes that possible.

Wishing you the best in 2019!

Andy

 


 

Moore Honored by TN Principals


From a press release:

At the 2018 Tennessee Principals Conference in early December, TPA presented Dana with a unique honor—dubbed the DM (Difference Maker) award—for her commitment to advancing K-12 education in Tennessee. Dana is an enthusiastic champion of TPA’s mission to support, empower, and connect school administrators across the state, and she works tirelessly to connect its members to influential leaders in Tennessee’s education community.

“Dana and ENA make us a better organization,” says Nancy Meador, TPA’s executive director. “Her efforts have made a tremendous difference in the quality of professional development that TPA provides its members.”

The TPA board recognized Dana’s above-and-beyond support with a one-of-a-kind award: an antique, refurbished school desk, complete with a gold placard that reads “Thanks for making a difference!”

“It’s one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received!” says Dana. “I was completely surprised, and I feel so honored that the board put this much thought and effort into finding an antique schoolhouse desk just for me.”

Congratulations, Dana, on your well-deserved recognition! ENA is privileged to have a difference maker like you on our team.

ENA is a proud sponsor of TPA. Founded in 1939, TPA’s mission is to serve as the primary advocate for its members’ personal and professional development. The organization’s primary goals include raising the bar for principalships, expanding learning opportunities, and forming partnerships and collaborations with other groups.

 

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