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.”

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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.

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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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Inherently Unstable

That’s how TEA’s top lobbyist described the state’s teacher evaluation system that is based on so-called “value-added” modeling. The remarks were made during testimony before the House Education Committee. Here’s more from a TEA Facebook post:

MORE on TVAAS:

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Obsolete?

Haywood County Director of Schools Joey Hassell takes outgoing Senate Education Committee Chair Dolores Gresham to task for her comments suggesting school districts are obsolete:

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Senate Education Chair Not Seeking Re-Election

State Senator Dolores Gresham will not be seeking re-election this year, the AP reports:


Tennessee Republican state Sen. Dolores Gresham says she will not be seeking reelection this year.


The Somerville lawmaker made the announcement in an email this week to constituents in her 26th District.


Gresham served six years in the state House before she was elected to three four-year terms in the Senate. She became Education Committee chairwoman as a freshman senator.

Gresham’s leadership was a critical element in securing passage of Tennessee’s school voucher program. In fact, in litigation filed by the school systems in Nashville and Memphis, reference is made to Gresham’s captaining of the voucher bill from the Senate floor.


Amendment No. 1 did not apply to Sen. Gresham’s home county of Fayette County or to any of the other six counties in Sen. Gresham’s district, despite Fayette County having two out of seven schools (28.6%) on the 2017 bottom 10% list and one out of seven schools (14.3%) on the 2018 list of priority schools.

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