An End to Lunch Shaming

Nashville State Rep. John Ray Clemmons has filed legislation that would end the practice of “lunch shaming” in Tennessee public schools, WSMV reports.


A state lawmaker has introduced a bill to help students who cannot pay for their lunches.
It’s called the ‘Anti-lunch Shaming’ bill.
Representative John Ray Clemmons has presented the bill two times before.

Students would receive the same lunch as their peers.
This bill would ban schools from taking actions against students who can’t pay for their lunches or those with lunch debt.

This is the third consecutive year Clemmons has introduced the legislation. The last two years saw the bill go down to defeat in legislative subcommittees.

Here’s more on that:


Republicans voted 4-2 to defeat The Tennessee Hunger-Free Students Act—a bill with three measures to ensure students can eat school lunches and not be punished when parents fail to pay meal fees or a meal debt.


Last year, an education subcommittee also rejected a bill sponsored by Clemmons that would have prevented lunch shaming. Every legislator who has opposed this bill in the last two sessions has been a Republican.

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TC Talks Nashville Mayor’s Race

Nashville education blogger TC Weber focuses on the Mayor’s race in his latest post. Here are some of his observations:

How did you spend your weekend? If you were one of roughly 300 teachers and parents in Nashville you met downtown at Third and Lindsey and then marched to the Howard School Building to cast your early vote for State Representative John Ray Clemmons to become the next Mayor of Nashville.

Regarding momentum building for state representative John Ray Clemmons:


The news out of last week’s forum held by the Panhellenic Society, Urban League of Middle Tennessee, NAACP Nashville, and Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship indicates that it is a distinct possibility.
Per the Tennessee Tribune,
At the end of the forum, all of the attendees were asked to vote in a straw poll for no more than two candidates vying for Mayor in the August 1 election. Clemmons decisively won the crowd of nearly 300, gaining 46% of the vote. John Cooper came in second with 26%, with David Briley close behind at 25%. Carol Swain suffered a decisive fourth place with 3% of the attendee’s vote. 

READ MORE from TC Weber about education in Nashville.

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Clemmons: The Education Mayor

The Tennessee Tribune has the story of how State Representative John Ray Clemmons is positioning himself to be Nashville’s “Education Mayor.”

Last Saturday, State Representative John Ray Clemmons, candidate for mayor of Nashville,
hosted an Educators VOTE Rally and March to the Polls with members of the MNEA union and fellow MNEA-endorsed candidates. Starting at 3rd and Lindsley, Amanda Kail, president of MNEA, greeted the crowd before introducing Representative Clemmons. “We endorsed John Ray because of his commitment to our schools and our children. He’s the only candidate with kids in public schools, and he’s the only candidate who’s committed to supporting us,” Kail said.

Rep. Clemmons took the stage with thunderous applause from over 200 educators in the room. Once reaching the stage, Clemmons invited all the children in the room to join him on stage. Wearing red, in solidarity with the educators in the room, Clemmons showed his support for Nashville’s educators and shared his plans for increasing the quality of public schools in the city.

Clemmons has been endorsed by MNEA — the Nashville union representing teachers and enjoys the support of more than 100 teachers and supporters of public schools who signed an OpEd written by teacher and blogger Mary Holden.

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MNEA Backs Clemmons for Nashville Mayor

From a press release:

This week, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association Political Action Committee for Education (MNEA-PACE) endorsed State Representative John Ray Clemmons to be Nashville’s next mayor. MNEA represents hundreds of Metro Nashville Public School teachers, amplifying their voices and advocating for their needs.


Regarding this endorsement, Rep. Clemmons released the following statement:


As a proud MNPS parent, I am honored to receive the endorsement of Nashville’s teachers. As both a parent and public servant, my strong support for our public schools has never wavered, and education will be our city’s top priority while I’m mayor. I am prepared to lead and make the tough decisions necessary to fully fund our schools, support our educators, and provide every child across Nashville with a high-quality education. I am truly thankful for the support of MNEA and look forward to working together for the benefit of all students in the years to come.

MNEA is the latest organization to endorse Rep. Clemmons for mayor of Nashville. He has also received the endorsement of the Central Labor Council of Nashville & Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council, Communications Workers of America Local 3808, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 429, Heat and Frost Insulators Local 86, and United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 233.

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An Interview with John Ray Clemmons

Nashville Mayoral candidate and current state representative John Ray Clemmons took the time to answer some questions about how he views the Mayor’s Office as it relates to education in Nashville. Here are his responses:

What are your top priorities for MNPS?

  1. Increase school funding to: increase pay for our teachers and para-professionals; fill vacancies with high-quality teachers; hire counselors, ELL specialists and a community partnership coordinator for every school; purchase new textbooks and classroom resources; and, fund our schools at the recommended level of $15,000 per student per year.
  2. Build a strong partnership with MNPS leadership to provide full Metro support to achieve a shared vision and create an environment more conducive to stability and longevity in the Director of Schools’ office.  
  3. Take more responsibility for the direct impact Metro has on student performance inside the classroom by working to address significant challenges facing students outside of our schools (adverse childhood experiences, hunger, homelessness/housing instability, access to transportation, traumatic events, etc.).
  4. Facilitate more budgetary transparency.
  5. Increase socio-economic diversity in our schools.
  6. Work to increase parental involvement and private partnerships.

As a public school parent of three young boys and elected official, I have had the opportunity to observe amazing things happening in schools across our city, and I cannot wait to see what our educators will accomplish with our full support and adequate resources.


What is your plan for addressing the teacher shortage in Nashville?
I would like to first review all school-based budgets submitted by the schools to gain a better understanding of and evaluate the biggest areas of need. Next, I would follow up by communicating with educators and administrators to create a priority list. Then, I would work with MNPS to draft a strategic recruitment plan and create a realistic budget to execute the plan.  

I fully recognize that our pay must be more competitive to attract high-quality teachers.

I also recognize that every school faces its own unique challenges and has varying needs. Those challenges need to be reflected in the way we budget more responsibly.  

What can be done to address chronic underfunding of Nashville schools?

First, we should start by making public education our number one priority and using clear, reliable data to demonstrate the real need for more funds in our school system.  While there are various factors limiting the pool of available revenues to invest in education, we must start by protecting our property tax base and restoring Metro’s fiscal integrity. We should also ask more of our entire community via public/private partnerships, technology/resource exchanges, volunteerism, and other means. Everyone is impacted by the quality of our public school system, either directly or indirectly.  I would also tap MNPS employees, including unions, to provide much-needed perspective and help with issues concerning pay competitiveness, training, and recruitment.

What role can the Mayor’s Office play in shaping state education policy?
Nashville is the economic engine of the state and produces a larger percentage of our workforce than any other city. The mayor has the ability to use these facts as leverage to advocate for policy, as well as fight state overreach and ensure that Nashville gets its fair share of state resources. Unlike the current mayor who remained completely silent on Gov. Lee’s voucher bill, Nashville’s mayor has a large platform that can and should be used when appropriate to demonstrate the problems with ill-conceived state policy.  Nashville needs and deserves a mayor who will not hesitate to act in the best interests of Nashville and fight to protect those interests.

How do you envision the relationship between the Mayor and the MNPS school board?
As mayor, I will work to build a strong partnership with MNPS leadership to provide full Metro support to achieve a shared vision and create an environment more conducive to stability and longevity in the Director of Schools’ office.  Rather than threaten to take over the schools or continue the finger pointing, I would seek to serve as a partner with the school board and the director of schools to ensure that all stakeholders are working toward the same goal. We would maintain an open door policy with school officials and maintain an open line of communication to stay apprised of how we can collaborate to achieve strategic objectives and improve student performance.  I would also like to appoint someone from the public or private sector with relevant expertise or knowledge to each school board committee to simply act as a subject-matter resource for board members. Ultimately, we must work together to bridge divides, build trust, and maintain mutual respect to ensure that our educators and students succeed.

If you are elected, what message would you send to MNPS teachers and staff?

I am in awe of your commitment to our children, and I am always available to listen and learn how I can help. No one has a more direct impact on the future of this city than our educators and staff, and I openly recognize that. I have your back.

What would you tell families moving to Nashville about MNPS?

I would tell them that I believe in MNPS so strongly that I proudly send my own children to an MNPS school every day with total confidence that they are receiving a quality education.  I would then encourage them to get engaged and stay engaged in their child’s school.  The diversity, educational opportunities, students and educators in MNPS make it truly special.

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Lunchroom Bullies

For the second year in a row, a committee in the Tennessee General Assembly has essentially endorsed lunch-shaming.

Here’s more on yesterday’s shocking vote:

Republicans voted 4-2 to defeat The Tennessee Hunger-Free Students Act—a bill with three measures to ensure students can eat school lunches and not be punished when parents fail to pay meal fees or a meal debt.

The bill sponsor Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, District 55, said the bill would stop school employees from throwing away a served meal if the student could not pay and would also prohibit schools from punishing or shaming students who accumulated a meal debt.

“We certainly do not want to have a child stigmatized or punished in any way for simply incurring a lunch debt at no fault of their own,” Clemmons said. “We have had incidents in recent years in Tennessee where students have been treated adversely or stigmatized in some manner. Whether it’s placed or made to eat in the principal’s office and eat a peanut butter sandwich by themselves simply because they had a lunch debt or being prevented from going on field trips because of a lunch debt.

Last year, an education subcommittee also rejected a bill sponsored by Clemmons that would have prevented lunch shaming. Every legislator who has opposed this bill in the last two sessions has been a Republican.

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Disappointing


That’s the word from Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen in response to a refusal by both Shelby County and Nashville school districts to hand over student data.

As the Data Wars continue, Chalkbeat reports on McQueen’s reaction:

“We are disappointed that these districts are choosing to withhold information from parents about the options that are available to their students while routinely saying they desire more parental engagement,” she said. “Allowing parents to be informed of their educational options is the epitome of family engagement and should be embraced by every school official.”

McQueen seemed to indicate that firmer consequences could lie ahead. “We must consider all options available in situations where a district actively chooses to ignore the law,” she said in the statement. McQueen told lawmakers in a conference call last month that she was not discussing withholding state funds as a penalty at the time, according to Rep. John Clemmons, who was on the call.

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