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.

 

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


 

 

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.

 

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport


 

Minnesota and Tennessee CAN

So, if you visit the website of TennesseeCAN — a pro-privatization education “reform” group, you find this:

I know Tennessee is the volunteer state and we’re certainly a friendly bunch, but are we really building a grassroots organization to help improve education in Minnesota?

Maybe, just maybe, the 50 state CANs as they are known aren’t really all that grassrootsy. Here’s how Minnesota CAN describes their work:

It’s cut and paste advocacy — sounds very organic and grassroots, right?

Anyway, you’re welcome, Minnesota!

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


 

Keep the education news coming!

 

An Announcement

Covering the ongoing TNReady story has been fascinating and intense. It’s meant constant engagement on Twitter and via other social media and multiple posts and updates each day.

It’s also made me reflect on what is now six consecutive legislative sessions of education policy coverage via this platform.

In addition to updates on legislative action that impacts our schools, students, teachers, and parents, I’ve written extensively on a full range of education issues. I’ve covered the State Board of Education, the Commissioner of Education, and local school boards (especially in larger districts).

This blog has featured guest posts from educators (and I welcome more submissions via andy@tnedreport.com) and from policymakers.

Readers can count on 4-5 posts per week covering timely, relevant education news. On weeks like last week, posts are added and updated frequently. Additionally, in-depth reports are provided on topics like NAEP scores and teacher compensation.

All of this to say: I’ve decided to open a Patreon page as a means of generating some revenue to make this site truly sustainable.

Your support — even a few dollars a month — will ensure TNEdReport continues and grows. With steady funding, I can devote significant time to the site and explore ways to offer more and better content.

If you’d prefer to simply make a one-time contribution, you can do that, too!

Thank you for reading!

 

The Schoolhouse Heist

Unifi-Ed out of Chattanooga has this to say about legislation related to Signal Mountain creating an independent school district:

Tennessee Senate Bill 1755 was proposed on January 23, 2018 by State Senator Todd Gardenhire. The bill proposes that all property and assets in a municipality that belong to a county school system would be forcibly transferred to the municipality if it forms an independent school district.

There are a variety of consequences of this bill, if it passes, that run counter to the desires expressed by the Hamilton County community through the recent process of the forming the Action Plan for Educational eXcellence (APEX Project).

Reverse Robin Hood Effect

Under this bill, the state would force the transfer of assets from one entity to another without compensation. Taxpayers own their schools, yet this bill would allow for their property to be seized. Historically across the state, and within our own community today, the municipalities that have formed independent districts have been affluent suburbs.

This situation creates a transfer of wealth from lower income neighborhoods to more prosperous communities. It is, in effect, a “reverse Robin Hood” effect — stealing from the poor to give to the wealthy.

READ MORE on this attempt to force the transfer of school district assets without compensation. The basic premise that the entire county’s taxpayers paid for the buildings would seemingly dictate that any creation of an independent district would result in at least some proportional compensation back to the larger district.

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


 

A Familiar Refrain

While discussing how the state’s new A-F report card that rates schools will impact districts and students, Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright pointed out that the attendance calculations could be problematic for both high school seniors and students in Kindergarten.

The Lebanon Democrat reports on Wright addressing the issue:

“That doesn’t even make sense that they would hold schools hostage and keep students in schools after they have completed all of their assignments and everything that they’ve met. But they’re looking at that 180 days of instruction. It’s getting so complex. I want this board to understand. We have to find a way to take care of our kids and particularly when you have to look at kids in kindergarten, kids in the 504 plan and kids in IEP. When you ask the Department of Education right now, we’re not getting any answers.”

Wright is referring specifically to policy implications that would result in requiring high school seniors to attend school even after they’ve completed all requirements and attended a graduation ceremony. On the other end of the spectrum, Kindergarten students often phase-in in small groups in order to ease the transition to school.

At issue is the 180-day instructional requirement. In some cases, high school seniors complete all requirements and exams ahead of graduation and end their school year several days “early.” This would result in less than 180 days of instructional time. Kindergarten students who phase-in also end up having slightly less than the 180 required days.

Strict adherence to the guidelines behind the Report Card would mean schools could be penalized for the phase-in and graduation issues Wright raises.

Final guidance from TNDOE might help address this, but as Wright noted:

When you ask the Department of Education right now, we’re not getting any answers.”

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


 

Goodbye, Grace Tatter

Chalkbeat’s Grace Tatter wrote her last piece for the online education news site this week. She’s moving on to Harvard for graduate school.

I could go back and count the number of blog posts of mine that included the words “Grace Tatter reported…” or some variation of that phrase, but that would take too long.

Tatter did an incredible job providing comprehensive coverage of education policy in Tennessee. She was there and wrote about numerous key events.

Her stories were clear, concise, and accessible.

Often, a paragraph from a Grace Tatter story would inspire me to dig a little deeper, find out a little more, and write a post of my own.

So, I say goodbye to Grace Tatter. Your work will be missed. I know the newer faces at Chalkbeat will continue doing sound work, and I look forward to it.

And, one last time, I’ll cite something Grace said to make a point:

Even when stories don’t seem to be about money, they usually are. How much money is being spent on testing, teacher salaries, school discipline reform? How much should be available for wraparound services? Why do some schools have more money than others? Is there enough to go around? Tennessee leaders have steadily upped public education spending, but the state still invests less than most other states, and the disparities among districts are gaping. That’s why more than a handful of school districts are battling with the state in court. Conversations about money are inextricable from conversations about improving schools

Once again, in typical Tatter fashion, she nails it. We can’t have the conversation about improving our schools without the conversation about investing in our schools. Money matters.

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


 

Teachers Union Membership Is Down Again. What Should TEA Do?

A new report shows that 27 state affiliates of the National Education Association lost active members in the past year, including Tennessee. Tennessee Education Association’s (TEA) membership dipped last year and has been continuously decreasing over the past five years.

In Tennessee, TEA had 28,802 active members during the 2015 – 2016 school year. That’s down 7%, or 2,240, from their 2014 – 2015 total of 31,042. TEA has lost over 37% of their active members in the past five years.

The decrease in membership is a direct result of the state’s mission to do whatever it takes to make the union as weak as possible. Teacher’s collective bargaining and payroll deductions were stripped away, and the membership has been decreasing since then.

While TEA can no longer collectively bargain, they can do what is known as collaborative conferencing. Teachers at Metro Nashville Public Schools voted to start collective conferencing with the district this past school year. 

The Tennessean describes collaborative conferencing as:

Collaborative conferencing is a form of district and union negotiation where topics such as: salaries or wages; grievance procedures; insurance benefits; fringe benefits; working conditions; vacation; and payroll deductions can be discussed. Other topics outside those listed are prohibited in meetings and conversations.

Another reason to join TEA was the ability to gain liability insurance. Now, the state of Tennessee provides all public school teachers with liability coverage at no cost, though the amount of coverage is not clearly defined.

The Fund provides liability insurance coverage to covered individuals and protects against damages or claims arising out of the performance of their work and within the scope of their employment or assignment

I have spoken to many teachers who agree with the positions of TEA, but do not want to spend $670 a year to become a member of a union that no longer has power. The state of Tennessee has done everything it can to reduce the amount of power TEA has in hopes of reducing their membership. It looks like it has worked.

What should TEA do to increase membership? I would love to hear your ideas.