Cardoza-Moore in the House?

It seems that Laurie Cardoza-Moore is interested in becoming a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Here’s more on Moore:

Her business model?

Well, her 2017 IRS 990 form offers some insight.

That year, Moore’s group – Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN) raised just over $1 million.

What’d she do with the cash?

Well, she paid herself $130,000. Then, she paid her husband’s business $67,000. There was a business “office expense” for occupancy at just over $49,000. She runs PJTN from her home, so that means she’s paying her mortgage with the cash. That’s $200,000 in payments to Moore and her husband, and another 50,000 a year to cover their mortgage. Then, there’s another $26,000 paid to Moore as an “occupancy expense.” Oh, and there’s $41,000 on “meals and entertainment.” Finally, her two kids received a total of around $2000 from the organization for “contract labor” that year.

Peddling ignorance is quite profitable, it seems. After all, that’s just one year of her “thriving” business.

And there’s also this:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today renewed its call for Tennessee to drop consideration of anti-Muslim activist and possible 9/11 truther Laurie Cardoza-Moore to that state’s Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission. Cardoza-Moore leads the Franklin, Tenn., group Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN).

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TEA’s Brown Continues Call for School Funding Boost

As the General Assembly returns and prepares to consider Gov. Lee’s school funding reform proposal, Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown continues a push to boost overall funding for public schools.

In a recent email to TEA members reporting on the committees reviewing the BEP, Brown said:

I am pleased to report there has been significant discussion around the need for increased funding for nurses; counselors, psychologists, and social workers; education support professionals; and assistance principals. In addition, we have discussed the real need for increases in educator salaries and benefits. All of these have been priorities for TEA for years.

But also noted:

Unfortunately, there has also been no indication that any changes to the funding formula will result in additional dollars being added to the state’s education budget. I and other stakeholders have stated repeatedly that unless there is an influx of funding into the education budget it doesn’t matter how we redistribute the funding to local school districts.

Meanwhile, state policy leaders like House Speaker Cameron Sexton have suggested that what is really needed is a proper incentive system for schools.

It seems the Speaker is not all that familiar with how schools actually work. The suggestion he makes here is that teachers and schools lack the proper incentive system. That is, schools fail students because there’s no threat of losing money no matter the outcome. This reflects a fairly depressing view of humanity. Further, it suggests that Sexton believes that teachers are currently “holding back” simply because they don’t fear punishment.

If only a punishment-based incentive system were in force, Tennessee teachers in every school system would rapidly accelerate learning, Sexton seems to be saying.

While policymakers pontificate about proper incentive systems, actual educators are practically begging for cash:

Former teacher Gabe Hart has a column in Tennessee Lookout that expresses his frustration at the current situation as it relates to teacher pay in Tennessee.

Here’s a bit of what he has to say relative to teacher salaries:

In December, in an attempt to recruit more corrections officers, Lee gave new officers a 37% raise which put the starting salary for a TDOC officer at $44,500.  First year teachers in Metro Nashville Public Schools will make $46,000 during their first year, and MNPS is one of the highest paying districts in the state.  First year teachers in Madison County make $38,000. The average first year teacher makes around $40,000 — almost $5,000 less than a first year corrections officer.  

I am fully aware that there are far more teachers in the state than corrections officers, and the funding comparison is apples and oranges.  Where I can push back, though, is that Tennessee has always been ranked between 44th-46th in the country when it comes to education funding

Oh, and did I mention there’s a growing teacher shortage?

As I noted in an earlier post:

Tennessee has tried a lot of education experiments in the last couple of decades. One experiment the state hasn’t tried? Actually investing large amounts of money in schools!

In the past, pleas for more cash would be met with resistance because investing more in schools meant raising taxes. Now, however, the state has a surplus in excess of $3 billion. This means we can fund TONS of improvements in public schools and not raise taxes one cent. Oh, and doing this with state surplus dollars also will help local governments keep property taxes low.

Of course, state Senator John Stevens seems to want to raise local property taxes:

“I’m not just going to give the locals a windfall by absorbing the costs that they’re supposed to pay for without them having some skin in the game,” Stevens said. “Because all the schools want to do is hire more people.”

I would remind Stevens and others that the Tennessee Constitution Article XI, Section 12 says:

The state of Tennessee recognizes the inherent value of education and encourages its support. The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools. 

It kind of seems like supporting and paying for public schools is the job of the General Assembly – it doesn’t mention anything about “costs” locals are “supposed to pay for.”

Maybe that’s why courts have ruled AGAINST the state of Tennessee in multiple school funding lawsuits since the 1990s.

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Is Sexton Serious?

House Speaker Cameron Sexton offered some concerning commentary on school funding ahead of an expected announcement this month on Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed changes to the state’s school funding formula (BEP).

Meghan Mangrum highlighted the comments in an article published in the Citizen-Tribune out of Morristown:

It seems the Speaker is not all that familiar with how schools actually work. The suggestion he makes here is that teachers and schools lack the proper incentive system. That is, schools fail students because there’s no threat of losing money no matter the outcome. This reflects a fairly depressing view of humanity. Further, it suggests that Sexton believes that teachers are currently “holding back” simply because they don’t fear punishment.

If only a punishment-based incentive system were in force, Tennessee teachers in every school system would rapidly accelerate learning, Sexton seems to be saying.

This type of thinking is especially alarming as the state considers revamping the school funding formula. Gov. Lee has promised a “student-centered” approach but has also stopped short of calling for more overall spending.

Here’s an analogy that might help explain the flaw in Sexton’s approach. UT Football has experienced a bit of a resurgence in recent years, but most fans would admit the last decade has been pretty rough. Under Sexton’s approach, the right answer is to offer less resources to the football program and then that will motivate them to get better and thus “earn” better resources. Want 10+ wins each season? Deduct $100,000 from the coach’s pay for each win under 10. Then, when the team only wins 6 or 7 games, take some more cash away so that they’ll be fired up to get after it next season. Maybe if the defense has a really bad game, the next game they could play without helmets? Surely, the proper punishment-based incentive will yield the desired results.

Of course, some have speculated that the whole movement on the part of Lee to change the BEP is really about a backdoor path to school vouchers:

In any event, I’m sure teachers across the state are working hard and polishing off all that knowledge they’ve been holding back thanks to the threat of lost resources made by Sexton. Once the punishment-based BEP formula is in place, I’m sure only good things will happen. In fact, I bet such a system will cause a rapid influx of people into the teaching profession in Tennessee – if only policymakers in previous years had thought of such a plan, Tennessee would be at the top of the nation by now.

Here’s a piece on merit pay that addresses (to some degree) the type of incentive plan Sexton may be envisioning:

And, here’s a piece that makes the argument for an across-the-board increase in school funding:

Finally, a note on the importance of raising teacher pay – not simply as a means of addressing the teacher shortage but also as a key factor in improving student achievement:

When teachers get paid more, students do better. In one study, a 10% increase in teacher pay was estimated to produce a 5 to 10% increase in student performance. Teacher pay also has long-term benefits for students. A 10% increase in per-pupil spending for each of the 12 years of education results in students completing more education, having 7% higher wages, and having a reduced rate of adult poverty. These benefits are even greater for families who are in poverty.

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Is This Who We Want on the Textbook Commission?

A national civil rights group is calling on the Tennessee Senate to reject the appointment of Laurie Cardoza-Moore to state’s Textbook Commission in light of her anti-Muslim views and her propensity to peddle conspiracy theories.

Here’s more from a press release:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today renewed its call for Tennessee to drop consideration of anti-Muslim activist and possible 9/11 truther Laurie Cardoza-Moore to that state’s Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission. Cardoza-Moore leads the Franklin, Tenn., group Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN).

Last Fall, CAIR called on Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton to rescind Cardoza-Moore’s appointment.

SEE: CAIR Calls on Tennessee House Speaker to Rescind Appointment of Anti-Muslim Activist to Textbook Commission

CAIR Calls on Tennessee House Speaker to Rescind Appointment of Anti-Muslim Activist to Textbook Commission

The Tennessee Senate Education Committee voted 7-1 Wednesday to move Cardoza-Moore appointment forward. Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) voted against the appointment. Cardoza-Moore’s appointment now moves to a vote by the full state Senate.

[NOTE: The 16-member commission oversees Tennessee’s list of textbooks and other educational materials recommended for use by public schools. Cardoza-Moore is already serving on the commission while awaiting confirmation.]

In her questioning of Cardoza-More, Sen. Akbari cited a textbook review from PJTN that seemed to promote the 9/11 truther hoax.

After referring to a textbook passage that said, “on September 11th, 2001, members of al-Qaeda carried out a terrorist attack on New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania,” the PJTN report highlighted the phrase “members of al-Qaeda carried out.” The PJTN report stated: (page 23) “given the plethora of evidence, the reviewer suggests removing the underlined section of sentence. . .This is a highly contested (per architects and engineers for 9/11 Truth, and demolition experts) argument. . .There is ample evidence that refute the ‘official’ story of what was perpetrated that day.”

Akbari pressed Cardoza-Moore on these statements by her organization but did not receive a clear reply. “This person has peddled hate, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and a conspiracy theory about what happened on 9/11, the most tragic event the United States where 3,000 people died,” said Sen. Akbari.

In responding to another question by Sen. Akbari, Cardoza-Moore stood by her false 2010 statement that a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., was a “terrorist training camp.”

“Someone with such bigoted, un-American and conspiratorial views should never be in charge of any state’s educational materials, which are designed to help shape young minds in a diverse society,” said CAIR Director of Government Affairs Department Robert S. McCaw. “We urge the Tennessee Senate to vote down this appointment as a clear sign that textbooks must reflect facts and reality, not conspiracy theories and hate.”

CAIR Research and Advocacy Coordinator Huzaifa Shahbaz said: “Her anti-Muslim comments and conspiratorial views should be nowhere near an educational institution. Our students deserve to have an education free from hate. The textbook commission needs to do a better job in fostering a healthy environment for our students — one that acknowledges diversity and cultural differences.”

BACKGROUNDER:

PJTN initiatives include “Stop Access Islam.” Cardoza-Moore led opposition to a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and opposed a mosque in New York City. On “The Daily Show,” she falsely claimed that “30 percent” of Muslims “are terrorists.”

MORE>

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Sexton’s Anti-Muslim, Insurrectionist Choice for Textbook Commission Wins Committee Endorsement

The Tennessee Holler has the video of a House Education Instruction Committee hearing which approved Laurie Cardoza-Moore for a seat on the state Textbook Commission. Moore was appointed by House Speaker Cameron Sexton. The approval came on a voice vote, with committee Democrats voicing opposition.

Here’s a clip from that hearing:

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Legislative Committee Approves Moore Appointment to Textbook Commission

After a 45-minute hearing, the House Education Instruction Committee approved the appointment of Laurie Cardoza-Moore to the state Textbook Commission on a voice vote. The opposition voices came exclusively from committee Democrats. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers attempted to steer the conversation about Moore away from comments she’s made publicly regarding slavery and the Islamic religion.

As a result of the committee vote, Moore is one step closer to legislatively-endorsed service on the state body that reviews and helps select textbooks for distribution in our state’s schools.

Here’s more on Moore:

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General Assembly Preview

Nashville education blogger TC Weber offers some insight into what the General Assembly may be considering around education policy in 2021.

Here’s some of what he has to say:

First up is addressing BEP funding for schools. State funding is typically contingent on attendance numbers. Due to the pandemic, school districts across the state are losing students. According to Chalkbeat, the statewide decline in student enrollment this fall would normally decrease the allocation by at least $320 million.

Recognizing, that if those lost students come back next year when the Coronavirus is more manageable, districts will be under economic hardship, Representative Cerpicky has introduced a school stabilization bill that would in essence freeze funding at current levels, providing relief to districts.

To his credit, Cerpicky understands that this is just a beginning and he would like the General Assembly to conduct a review of the current BEP formula. Most stakeholders recognize the shortcomings of the current model, which was adopted in 1992, and its failure to adjust for inflation, government mandates, a growing charter school sector, and expenses driven by changes in technology. There seems to be a growing willingness to redress it.

Cerpicky’s thinking is that if a bill keeping districts financially solvent for another year can be passed, it would create a window of opportunity to address the BEP. Legislators would have 14 to 15 months in which to address the BEP formula in Education Committee meetings. I can’t disagree with that thinking.

Legislators for the most part appear to understand the importance of freezing district funding and appear amendable to keeping funding frozen. Well, all except Chairman Sexton who thinks that only schools who have open school buildings deserve protection. Apparently, he is unaware of the level of work teachers are doing remotely to keep students engaged. Somebody needs to hand him a clue. Instead of criticizing Memphis for taking their savings and giving teachers a 1% raise, he should be praising them for recognizing the level of sacrifice being made by teachers and principals.

The funding picture needs to be clarified as soon as possible so that superintendents can begin accurately creating their budgets for the next school year.

Equally important is a decision on whether TNReady will be administered, or not, and if administered, what impact scores will have on schools, teachers, and students. Most recognize that the administration of testing at this juncture is an exercise in futility. But there is a contingency who believes that the tests should be administered though results should not be used for accountability. My argument is that if I hold a scrimmage game and I keep score, despite calling it practice, everybody knows who the winners and losers are.

Not testing this year will not permanently damage kids, in fact, it would provide opportunities for additional instructional time. It’s been floated out there that this year’s tests should be canceled and money instead is allocated to summer school. I don’t know if that’s feasible or not, but it makes a lot more sense.

Here are some notes on the historically underfunded BEP:

Note here that TACIR – a state organization that analyzes state and local government – says the BEP is underfunded by $1.7 billion. Even with the COVID “savings,” it seems our schools need a drastic increase in investment.

Will the General Assembly get serious about actually coughing up that kind of cash? I seriously doubt it.

They should.

But, Gov. Lee has shown his true colors — he’s pushed a privatization agenda and he cancelled a planned teacher pay raise this past year. It’s not clear lawmakers have the courage or fortitude to challenge Lee when it comes to funding. Nor is it clear they will do what it takes to pump $1.7 billion into our schools.

We’re now on our second consecutive governor named Bill. Mr. Haslam revised the BEP in a way that virtually ensured we’d end up where we are now — with an inadequate funding mechanism for our state’s schools. Gov. Lee lacks the imagination to dream big for schools, instead preferring to pursue a privatization agenda that makes his friend Betsy DeVos proud.

The General Assembly “might” do something on school funding. Freezing the normal allocation to prevent significant funding loss as a result of COVID is a good start. But, there’s much more to be done. Lawmakers shouldn’t use the COVID situation as a scapegoat to allow them to get out of the much more challenging work of creating a long-term, sustainable BEP solution.

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Laurie Cardoza-Millions!

Recently, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton made news by appointing controversial anti-Muslim activist Laurie Cardoza-Moore to the state Textbook Commission.

Let’s take a closer look at Moore and some of her antics.

She’s very interested in “taking back America’s children.” As a dad, this frightens me a bit.

But, here she goes:

She also takes to writing articles about the need to “take back education.

This national profile and all the attendant fundraising begs the question: How much does Laurie Cardoza-Moore make pushing a hate-filled agenda, attacking local school boards, and fundraising off of the evils of Common Core?

Well, her 2017 IRS 990 form offers some insight.

That year, Moore’s group – Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN) raised just over $1 million.

What’d she do with the cash?

Well, she paid herself $130,000. Then, she paid her husband’s business $67,000. There was a business “office expense” for occupancy at just over $49,000. She runs PJTN from her home, so that means she’s paying her mortgage with the cash. That’s $200,000 in payments to Moore and her husband, and another 50,000 a year to cover their mortgage. Then, there’s another $26,000 paid to Moore as an “occupancy expense.” Oh, and there’s $41,000 on “meals and entertainment.” Finally, her two kids received a total of around $2000 from the organization for “contract labor” that year.

Peddling ignorance is quite profitable, it seems. After all, that’s just one year of her “thriving” business.

Oh, and to be clear, PJTN is not very nice. At all. Here’s a tweet they like:

Yes, the group that Proclaiming Justice to The Nations “likes” is called American White and, well, it’s just about what you think it is.

This, Tennesseans, is who Cameron Sexton – the highest ranking official in the House of Representatives – wants to serve on a state body overseeing textbook selection.

The question? Will House Republicans stand up to Sexton? Will Gov. Bill Lee speak out about both Moore’s bigotry and her profiteering from peddling hate?

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Breakin’ the Law, Florida Style

Over at Dad Gone Wild, Nashville education blogger TC Weber talks about the Florida Virtual School, Common Core State Standards, and MNPS. Here’s a little hint: Tennessee’s state standards are basically Common Core — but don’t tell that to the newest member of the Textbook Commission!

Here’s TC’s take on Florida Virtual School and some apparent law-breaking:

Tennessee school districts are required to teach Tennessee standards using materials drawn from the state’s approved list of materials, or in which a district has obtained a waiver of use. The emergency rules allow a little bit more flexibility when it comes to online learning, but not when a district is delivering in-person instruction.

As part of its response to the challenges presented by COVID-19, Metro Nashville Public Schools chose to purchase a curriculum from the Florida Virtual School in order to standardized instruction across the district. As an added benefit, many of the accountability requirements called for by the state were embedded in the FLVS offerings – attendance, grading, assessments. It was a plan that made a lot of sense in light of the disruption students would experience this year. But to bring to fruition, it required every school to adopt the curriculum with fidelity. Which is something, right or wrong, that did not happen.

At last week’s committee meeting, State Representative Regan brought forth a question as to whether MNPS had been granted a waiver to use the FLVS curriculum. Board spokesman Nathan James did his best to dance around the question, but Regan was relentless, and eventually, it was revealed that no such waiver had been secured despite ongoing collaboration between the DOE and MNPS. Furthermore, MNPS had received written notification that they were in violation of Tennessee state law due to a failure to secure that waiver.

This question of approval is not a new conversation for me. Back when the use of Florida Virtual School was first proposed I raised the question of it requiring a waiver. That question was posed at an MNPS school board meeting by then-school board member Jill Speering back in July. Speering’s question was dismissed and she was assured, no waiver was required.

At issue here is that Tennessee law prohibits the teaching of Common Core State Standards, it takes less than a perfunctory search to identify that Florida Virtual School curriculum is deeply rooted in CCSS. Now that might be a dismissable factor considering the current situation if we choose to ignore the proliferation of CCSS architects currently employed by the Tennessee Department of Education. Be it AchieveTheCore, the Liben Foundation, CKLA, or David Steiner, it’s pretty clear that the department is deeply invested in the theory of CCSS despite their repeated claims to the contrary. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck… it’s probably a duck.

MORE from Weber>

Nathan James and Penny Schwinn?

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Taking on Testing

Four members of the Tennessee House of Representatives have signed a letter to Gov. Bill Lee calling on him to end TNReady testing and teacher evaluations this year. The move follows a similar request issued by the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) last week. The letter, signed by Representatives John Ray Clemmons, Gloria Johnson, Bill Beck, and Jason Hodges notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has created special challenges that must be taken into account.

Here’s that letter:

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