Williamson County Struggles with Teacher Pay

Tori Keafer in the Williamson Herald explains the struggle Williamson County Schools faces with paying teachers enough to live in the county where they are being asked to teach.

Currently, the base salary for teachers in WCS is $40,150. In 2019, the Williamson County Board of Commissioners passed a 7-cent property tax increase to bump the base pay from $37,500 to the current rate.

Housing Struggle

“I think we all agree it’s not enough. We need to continue to make that a focus,” Superintendent Jason Golden said. “After we approved that, some of our neighbors voted for larger increases, so it is a constant battle. And I will tell you also, we’ve talked about the cost of living. Housing is an issue.”

District 9 board member Rick Wimberly pointed out the average home value in Williamson County, using data through May according to Zillow, was just over $595,000. With a $40,000 salary, a teacher would hardly have enough for home payments, he said, and living in an average apartment wouldn’t be that much better either.

“You’re still not scraping by,” he said. “We’ve got to fix that, and we’re not going to fix it tonight. … I just hope this is something, like Eric and like Jason have said, that we can take on as a high priority.”

Wimberly added:

“We are so far off — so far off — that it poses challenges now, but it’s just going to get worse and worse,” he said. “Perhaps it’s after the time I’m gone, but we’re going to have to face it as a community. This is a problem for us. And yeah, you can take my numbers and do whatever you want to with them, but I don’t think you’re going to convince me that we … pay sufficient[ly] to help people where they can have a good lifestyle in Williamson County or even commut[ing] from out of the county.”

The note on the battle over teacher pay in Williamson County comes after a similar story and fight in Maury County.

A recent story on teacher pay across the state also reveals that the state is not doing much to help the situation:

The Tennessee State Board of Education has set the state’s minimum teacher salary at $38,000 for the upcoming school year. That’s $49 more than the current average minimum salary, according to a story in Chalkbeat.

While the overall boost in minimum teacher pay is certainly welcome news, what’s interesting is to examine the pace of change in teacher pay over time.

As the Chalkbeat piece notes, the average teacher pay in Tennessee overall is $51,349.

Here’s why that’s so fascinating. Back in 2014, the state’s BEP Review Committee issued a report calling on the state to fund teacher salaries by way of the BEP at a level equivalent to the actual state average salary. That average? $50,116. So, the average now is just a bit over $1200 more than the average in 2014. In other words, teacher pay in Tennessee is creeping up at a snail’s pace. And, of course, teacher pay in our state is still below the Southeastern average (about $2000 below).

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Wit, Wisdom, and Williamson County

If you’re looking for the hotbed of leftist indoctrination in Tennessee, you should look no further than Williamson County, the wealthiest in the state, located just south of Nashville.

I mean, just look at the Williamson County Schools embracing diversity and also promoting seahorse porn.

It’s very troubling.

Williamson Strong has a take on the latest events there:

As a reminder, the national Moms for Liberty organization is making a full court press here in Williamson County against….elementary school books, which they allege are teaching Critical Race Theory You can watch segments on their own YouTube channel for a full deep dive on their Critical Race Theory 101 event that was held a few weeks ago if you have a few hours to kill.

The group’s members and their social media supporters are constantly decrying the supposed indoctrination that’s taking place through the new reading curriculum being used in WCS. Yet curiously, most of the 30 public commenters they had speak out against the Wit & Wisdom curriculum at Monday night’s meeting focused on age appropriateness of the content, not CRT – they even had props and signs to accompany and illustrate many of the examples.

But wait, we haven’t yet mentioned the seahorses because honestly it deserves its own section.

Moms for Liberty has a real issue with a 1st grade book on seahorses, which they call “a soft introduction to Sex Ed” and “switched gender roles”.

We’re not making this up or even slightly exaggerating or taking this out of context. Please watch this part for yourself because it is a very worrisome book.

Read the whole post to get a view of what’s happening in Williamson County.

All the Way Back to 2014

Those of you who have been around for a bit or who are regular readers may remember all the way back to 2014 when Williamson County Schools was labeled a hotbed of leftist indoctrination because of Common Core.

A group of candidates who strongly opposed Common Core were supported by the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity and won a majority on the School Board.

Some of these individuals have expressed support for vouchers and for bringing charter schools to Williamson County. Those are two primary goals of AFP.

Alvey on Education offers a view of what’s happening from a Williamson County parent’s perspective. A recent post there discusses a pending resolution at the School Board level that would denounce Common Core. Of course, it seems increasingly likely that Common Core will die an early death in Tennessee. But, the post offers some insight into what is happening now in one of the best school systems in Tennessee.

It seems that every few years, some outside groups descend on Williamson County and insert some chaos into the regular functioning of the school system. What’s somewhat amusing about this is that in 2014, the fuss was all about Common Core – a curriculum backed by then-Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and the GOP General Assembly. Now, the problem is being caused by Wit and Wisdom, a curriculum backed by Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn. Yes, that very same Penny Schwinn who was appointed by Gov. Bill Lee – you know, the Bill Lee from Williamson County who is pretty conservative, just ask him.

Yes, the very same Bill Lee who signed into law a bill banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

But wait, Critical Race Theory is bad but Critical Race Theory is in Wit and Wisdom but Bill Lee is essentially forcing Wit and Wisdom on all school districts.

It’s almost like no one at the TN DOE or in the Gov’s office is paying that much attention?

I wonder how Moms for Liberty feels about Bill Lee who signs bills that ban Critical Race Theory and also supports efforts to enshrine Critical Race Theory in the curriculum? Or, maybe Lee just likes the seahorse porn?

It’s all very confusing.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

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Williamson County Continues Wrestling with Diversity, Inclusion

As tensions heat up in Williamson County over the process of instilling principles of diversity and inclusion in the system’s schools, one parent group continues to highlight the work in the community being done on the issue.

Here’s more from One WillCo regarding some of what happened at this week’s school board meeting:

Last week, One WillCo joined with five other local organizations with a joint statement supporting Superintendent Jason Golden, and Williamson County School’s diversity efforts with “Fostering Healthy Solutions.” Tonight at the school board meeting several parents involved with One WillCo shared their experiences and thoughts during public comment. 

Alanna Truss, a clinical psychologist and parent of a Woodland Middle School and Kenrose Elementary School student, spoke in support of “Fostering Healthy Solutions” and Superintendent Golden. “Recent efforts by some individuals to push back against DEI efforts have included the claim that children are being traumatized by exposure to factual representations of history. In my years serving this community, I have yet to see a child in my practice due to being traumatized by our county’s curriculum choices. I have however, seen several students experiencing trauma due to being discriminated against and bullied within our schools, due to race, religion, gender and sexuality. As a parent and psychologist I am grateful for the ongoing efforts of our school board to make our schools a place where all students feel seen, respected, and safe.”

Trinh Le in District 12 thanked Jason Golden and the School Board for following science to keep students safe this year. She also shared that just this year at school her daughters have had anti-Asian slurs said to them, have heard other students telling Hispanic students to go back to where they came from, and heard anti-gay insults repeatedly shouted in the halls, and that this is why she supports a curriculum that teaches student about the true history of our country. “I have heard people say that teaching these parts of our history is racist or traumatic. But what’s traumatic is Black, Latino, Asian, and LGBTQ kids going to schools where they face discrimination and don’t feel safe.” 

Amie Cooke, a mom of 3 elementary school kids in District 5, shared that she was led by Jesus last year to start a group called “Be The Bridge” to connect with friends of color in her community, and in part to learn about the discrimination they have experienced. From her conversations she has learned about some terrible acts of discrimination their kids have experienced starting as early as Kindergarten. Due to the curriculum controversy she has been hearing she asked her daughter, who just finished second grade, what she remembered about Ruby Bridges, and her daughter told her, “People didn’t like Ruby because of her skin color, but her teacher stood up for her and mommy, I would have stood up for her too.” Mrs. Cooke continued by calling the board to continue to equip and support and stand up for all of the children of WCS.  

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Williamson County Community Groups Express Support for Golden

Amid a controversy in Williamson County stemming from a group calling itself “Moms for Liberty,” a number of community groups joined together to issue a statement of support for Director of Schools Jason Golden.

Here’s more:

Locally organized community groups One WillCo, The Public, Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition, Williamson Social Justice Alliance, Together Nolensville, and Be the Bridge are banding together to show their support and a unified vote of confidence in Jason Golden’s leadership in advance of the Williamson County School Board vote on Monday, June 21st to extend his contract. 

The joint statement being issued today is below: 

———-

“Williamson County Schools are the backbone of our community and an asset of which everyone who lives here benefits in one way or another. Superintendent Jason Golden has proven his commitment and capability in working diligently to provide every child with the learning environment they deserve. 

As grassroots local organizations whose leaders and members have been working in Williamson County for many years, we are committed to advocating for and supporting those in positions to positively influence the direction of our community so that it’s a safe, welcoming, and inclusive place for all. 

We stand in support of Jason Golden and ask the Williamson County School Board to renew his contract on Monday, June 21st, 2021 in recognition of his steady leadership in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, his commitment and actions in acknowledging and addressing the diversity challenges within the district, and his strong working relationships with the County Commissioners and other elected officials, after years of creating trust and rapport. 

Our organizations collectively consist of hundreds of Williamson County residents who believe that the diversity of our community is a strength, and that we have a shared responsibility to promote and recognize the varied backgrounds, beliefs, and needs of our neighbors. We are, and have been for many years in some cases, advocating for a more inclusive and safe place to live, work, and raise families. Williamson County Schools plays an enormously important role in the vision of a welcoming environment for all — no matter your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or family structure. We believe that every neighbor should be loved and accepted, but most of all safe and respected with fair and equitable treatment in their lives. 

Jason Golden has shown he is committed to recognizing the various needs and challenges of our students and teachers, and will work to ensure our schools are safe environments where they can all work toward their best potential. 

Renewing his contract will send a strong signal to our community that the Williamson County School Board agrees that all students deserve a focus on a safe learning environment, no matter who they are. 

Signed Together,

One WillCo; Revida Rahman & Jennifer Cortez, Co-Founders

The Public; Anthony Hendricks & Brad Perry, Co-Founders 

Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition; Pastors Bryant Herbert & Walter Simmons, Co-Founders
Williamson Social Justice Alliance; Kate Ward, Founder

Together Nolensville; Nickolas Lee, Robyn Lee, Jason Mikel, Emily Miller, Lorina Poe, Angela Smith-Mull, Cedrick Walker, Reba Wright; Co-Founders

Be the Bridge Nolensville; Amie Cooke & Audrey McAdams, Co-leaders

boy running in the hallway
Photo by Caleb Oquendo on Pexels.com

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Responses to “Moms for Liberty”

Williamson County parent group One WillCo has been organizing and speaking out in favor of diversity and inclusion in schools. Now, the group is out with a public statement in response to national group “Moms for Liberty” and their campaign against so-called “Critical Race Theory.”

Here’s the statement from One WillCo:

Ahead of one of the nationally-coordinated “Moms for Liberty” misinformation events being held locally and advertised as “Critical Race Theory 101,” local group One Willco releases the following statement:
“All our students have the right to have a safe learning environment. Children in our community have been told to ‘go back to Mexico,’ have been called the ‘n-word,’ and parents continuously share stories with us that their children have heard even worse in their school. These lived experiences here in Williamson County cannot be described as a safe educational environment by anyone. When groups try to divide us by labeling any conversation about race or racism as ‘Critical Race Theory,’ they silence our lived experiences of racism and the history of discrimination that affects our lives today. When a group is opposed to having hard conversations on topics like diversity and equity, and have no proposed action to protect children like mine from being recipients of harassment based on the color of their skin, we cannot solve the problem. We must stop sticking our heads in the sand or using false labels, and instead work together to combat racism in our schools so that we can all come together as a community for our shared prosperity.” – Revida Rahman, co-founder of One WillCoParents in the Community share their stories:

“We can all agree that students should be judged based on their character and not on the color of their skin,” said Tizgel High, mother of three children in WCS. “But, unfortunately, in our society, and here in Williamson County we haven’t arrived there yet. During this school year my second grade child brought home an assignment that linked a picture of a black child to the term “scarcity”. When I raised my concern that a black child would be the pictorial representation of a negative adjective, the school administrator responded that in other parts of the world things are scarce. Of course this school administrator is a very good person trying to do the best for students and was embarrassed when I brought it up. But this shows that he was not equipped to check his bias and how it may be influencing how children were being taught, or that his bias indicated stereotypes that he held and had nothing to do with the picture that was presented, or the lesson being taught until I pointed it out to him. I have heard voices say that noticing and pointing out instances of racism is indoctrinating our children, but I would argue that teaching kids that the color of their skin is linked to being foreign and scarce sounds more like indoctrination than learning and teaching about an honest view of history.”I know we all believe in prioritizing the safety, well-being, education, and development of our children – all of our children — here in Williamson County,” said Dr. Aima Ahonkhai-Nottidge, mother of two children at Edmondson Elementary and Assistant Professor of Medicine at a local hospital. “And I am grateful for a national climate which is more open to having honest discussions about race and racism in America, with the goal of equality for all. Nonetheless, I am utterly exhausted by those who constantly try to ignore or minimize our stories and misrepresent the scope and premise of “Critical Race Theory,” thereby shutting off any productive conversation and progress. Yet, I will continue to advocate for my children, and all the children of Williamson County, not only as my duty as a parent, but also so that we can move forward toward equality as a community.” 
Williamson County Community Members

UPDATED with statements from Southern Christian Coalition and Williamson Social Justice Alliance and Together Nolensville.

Southern Christian Coalition:

“A major role of the church is to be the conscience of the community,” said Rev. Dr. Kevin Riggs, Pastor of Franklin Community Church in Williamson County. “Denying systemic racism in our country is denying history, and putting all conversation about race and the history of racism in America as “critical race theory” is just a strategy to silence and stop important conversations that lead to true unity. From the genocide of First Nations people, to the enslavement of Africans, to the forced encampments of our Asian neighbors and to our mistreatment of people on our southern border, systemic racism was, and is, a major part of our history in America. The only way forward is acknowledgement, confession, and repentance that leads to actions, just like in our personal relationships with Jesus. One of those actions we must take as a country is teaching our children our sins and mistakes so that they do not repeat them. The sin of racism needs to be taught in our schools in order to bring us to a path of healing and equality as a country.” 

As a United Methodist pastor and father to two children in the Williamson County School System, I hope that my children’s teachers are able to instruct them about our nation’s history with both critical and constructive lenses,” said Rev Brandon Baxter, Associate Pastor of West End United Methodist Church in Nashville. “It is a simple fact that throughout our history the sin of racism has informed much of our culture and many of our systems, and that racism is alive and well today. The fact that a Williamson County parent referred to COVID-19 as “the China virus” at Monday night’s school board meeting is proof that we have work to do on bullying based on race. To silence teachers from exploring such basic truths does a disservice to our children. These young persons will be the ones responsible for shaping a more hopeful and equitable society for all people as they continue to perfect this union in which we live. In order to do so, they must have access to the free market of ideas, including those uncomfortable truths that challenge them to grow beyond what once has been. Nobody should fear the truth, most especially Christians, who follow the God known in Jesus Christ who said, according to the Gospel of John, when we are confronted with sin, the truth shall set us free.”

“There have been a lot of comments expressed publicly that second graders are too young to talk about racism in the classroom, but if my second grade Black son is old enough to hear the n-word said by a classmate in school and experience racism, then I think all students in second grade are old enough to learn about and discuss racism,” said Elizabeth Madeira, Williamson County mother. 

Williamson Social Justice Alliance:

Williamson Social Justice Alliance would like to publicly state our support of the Williamson County School board and its positive steps to address racist incidents in WCS schools. Our statement comes in light of the recent WCS school board meeting where resistance was expressed and misinformation spread by other groups.

We stand for equality in our schools, be that in skin color, sex, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, or gender identity, and believe that everyone, regardless of personal values, wishes equal treatment and opportunity for each student in Williamson County. However, the stories of discrimination, bullying and harassment that have surfaced from our schools in recent years — see the @dearestwcs Instagram account to read a few — have made it clear that racism and other forms of bias continue to exist.

The first steps toward achieving equality and safety for our students are to acknowledge that there is an issue, gain greater perspective, and work together to find a solution. The misguided narrative surrounding “Critical Race Theory” currently being propelled by the “Moms for Liberty” group is not only harmful for our students and families of color but to our community as a whole. There is no place for divisiveness and fear when we are all working toward a common end goal — the protection and equal treatment of our children. 

To join us and our partner organizations in these efforts, find us at www.wsjatn.org or email us at info@wsjatn.org.

Together Nolensville

Together Nolensville is a group of community members who support a unified pursuit for justice, equality, & protection for the minority members within our community. Our mission is to educate & unify through resources, events, and meaningful connection. 

Together Nolensville has been closely following the work of the Williamson County School Board and supports their efforts and commitment to intentionally improve the school environment for students of all races and ethnicities. Included below are statements of support from members of the Together Nolensville community.

All children in our community deserve to feel safe, seen, and protected within Williamson County Schools,” said Kim James, mother of three children in Williamson County Schools in Nolensville. “The false assertion that there is no need for diversity training in the school system is merely an attempt to preserve the climate of ignorance and hate that my family and others have experienced and that is still a serious issue in Williamson County. In just the past month, two of my three children have experienced race-based bullying at school, and my children are only 6, 8 and 10 years old. My children have been told that ‘Black people are ugly’ and ‘N-words are stupid anyway’ – a sentiment that the child heard from his father. We have also experienced the hurtful effects of teachers’ racial biases. As parents of three beautiful Brown children we know from experience that as a community we cannot maintain the status quo and instead need to work together to ensure that all children are protected, instead of shutting down conversations designed to solve the problem of racism that still exists here in Williamson County.”

“Williamson County Schools provide a top notch education for the students in the district. That education should include preparing all students to live in a diverse country and a global society, as college and career environments will in all likelihood look very different than the bubble that is Williamson County,” shared Audrey McAdams, a mother of three children attending a Williamson County elementary school. “If history is to be taught, then all of it should be, no matter the difficult subject matter. This will foster empathy, not division. It’s a road map of what not to do and what to be aware of. I understand there are concerns of what is appropriate for elementary age children to learn about regarding desegregation and the Civil Rights era. My rebuttal is: what a privilege it must be for one to feel they have choice on when to educate their child about racism. As a mother to Black children, I don’t have that luxury.”

“The Ruby Bridges story in our second grade ELA curriculum is part of a heated discussion about the introduction of racial education into our schools. However, discussing Civil Rights history in an age appropriate way is not teaching Critical Race Theory, it is simply teaching American history,” said Emily Miller, mother of one child in a Williamson County School, and one of the founders of Together Nolensville. “Furthermore, in the events of American Civil Rights history, one does not find a simple dichotomy of white oppressors and Black victims, as some groups claim. If you look closely at any story of the American Civil Rights movement, you will see white allies working alongside African American citizens to make our country a more equitable and just place. The story of Ruby Bridges is one that shows courage and compassion from inspiring individuals across races. Judge J. Skelly Wright was the white male judge who ordered the desegregation of schools, despite great personal cost. And Ruby’s white teacher, Barbara Henry, was a steadfast support for Ruby throughout her first year of integration. Some individuals are afraid their white children will feel ashamed of their own skin color if they are taught Ruby Bridges’ story as second-graders. I wish the groups that seek to divide us would understand that currently in WCS, it is not white students who are more often being made to feel ashamed for the color of their skin. Their fear for their white students’ future discomfort is blinding them to the actual discomfort many minority students are currently experiencing in WCS. Only when we can have these honest and difficult conversations can we move forward together with true healing.”  

“As a parent of a Nolensville High School rising senior, I’m speaking out against the disinformation spread by groups that seek to divide and scare us,” said Jason Mikel, local Pastor. “I’m speaking out because I want my son to know about the racial history of our country and how racism still exists today in the fabric of our culture. I want him to know about the Tulsa Massacre, the Fort Pillow Massacre, red-lining, voter intimidation, the genocide of native peoples within our borders, and the brutal truths about slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, hatred, and bigotry and how it still produces the powers of racism today. I want my son to know this so when versions of the same are encountered in his life, he will know how to stand clearly and firmly against it. Despite those who would speak otherwise, as a community, we need to speak honestly about the past so that we can move together toward understanding, mending, and reconciling as we educate our children.”

Together Nolensville, as an organization dedicated to uniting our town, is committed to supporting our school board by educating our community with non-partisan, factual information on all efforts to make our schools safer, more inclusive environments for all students. 

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Williamson Parents Speak Out for Diversity, Inclusion

A group known as One WillCo helped organize a parent response to a plan by Williamson County Schools to focus attention on diversity in the district and address issues of systemic racism.

Here’s more from a press release:

Before tonight’s school board meeting, over 100 community members joined outside the Williamson County Admin Complex to show support of the district’s hiring of “Fostering Healthy Solutions” and their efforts to support diversity and inclusion in the district. Fifteen community members spoke in gratitude during the period of public comment.  

Revida Rahman, mom to two children in Williamson County Schools reminded everyone that “Brown v. Board of Education was decided 67 years ago today. If your child hasn’t experienced racism at school, that’s good for you, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to other kids. Our students have the right to a safe environment. If you aren’t empathetic to children being harmed by racism, please stop trying to prevent action. We have to do something and the time to act is now.” 

Lee Cooke also spoke in support of diversity work. He has 3 children in WCS and recognized that people of color are grossly underrepresented in Williamson County, even on the Board and on the faculty and staff. He continued, “And I find it concerning and disappointing that there is no formal training for faculty around unconscious bias. I go through it twice a year with my corporate job, so I’m not sure why teachers don’t get the same training. We need a better system of reporting & tracking so students feel safe reporting incidents.”

Dustin Koctar lives in District 12 and has 3 kids in elementary school. “I want to thank you for hiring FHS (Fostering Healthy Solutions) for much-needed assistance and guidance to make schools safer and more welcoming for everyone. You put your reputations at risk and opened yourselves up to harassment and hate. I’m asking you to stay the course and continue the support.” He also addressed fellow white people in the crowd, “we can move past the discomfort you may feel about this. If left unattended, white guilt can become the best friend of white supremacy. Children should be able to see people who look like them. We support the children who feel powerless.”

Emily Miller, a mother with one child in WCS and one attending soon, and an admin of the “Together Nolensville” Facebook Group also spoke, “Thank you to the Board for hard work in all areas of education and for hiring FHS, a qualified third party to help us make difficult decisions. As a white mom of white kids, this still matters to me, as it should to everyone. We want schools to be a safe and comfortable place for incident reporting and accountability. Thank you, and keep up the good work you’re doing.”

Submitted Photo

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Williamson County Group to Make Stand for Diversity & Inclusion

A group known as OneWillCo plans to be in attendance at tonight’s Williamson County School Board meeting to show support for efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the district’s schools.

Here’s more from a press statement provided by the group:

A large group of parents and community members will show up at tonight’s school board meeting to show public support of the efforts by the WCS School Board and “Fostering Healthy Solutions”  to promote diversity and equality in Williamson County Schools.

“We are anticipating a large show of support tonight to further the efforts that Williamson County Schools has already started,” said Jennifer Cortez, one of the founders of OneWillCo. “We are grateful to Superintendent Jason Golden and our school board for taking courageous and necessary steps to address the racial harassment that continues to be a blight on our local schools. Our focus is straightforward. We want reasonable measures put in place to give our students of color the value and support they have needed and deserved for far too long. The responsibility rests on our whole community to support these crucial efforts.”

The move from the group comes as issues around race and diversity are receiving increasing attention in Williamson County and across the state.

In fact, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that specifically prohibits the teaching of so-called “Critical Race Theory.”

Chalkbeat has more on that move:

Legal scholars are questioning whether a recently passed bill that seeks to restrict Tennessee educators’ teachings about race and racism will pass legal muster given past precedent, including one case that dates back 50 years.

The GOP-backed measure, which passed in the Tennessee House and Senate among partisan lines, would penalize school districts if teachers tie past and present events to white privilege, institutional racism, and unconscious bias.

“This is a poorly written bill that promotes a specific agenda, threatens academic freedom, and suffers from serious overbreadth and vagueness problems,” said Hudson, a law professor at Belmont University who specializes in first amendment issues.

Not surprisingly, state Senator Brian Kelsey and the law firm where he works support the measure:

One organization that supports the bill is the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center, a public interest firm where State Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown serves as a senior attorney. Kelsey supported the Senate version of the bill.

A number of groups across the state are actively encouraging Gov. Bill Lee to veto the measure. These groups include NOAH (Nashville), MICAH (Memphis), and CALEB (Chattanooga) as well as the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance, the Tennessee Education Association, and the ACLU.

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Bill Lee’s Impact Fee

Governor Bill Lee is responsible for a fee increase that passed in Williamson County last night. The Tennessean reports that the Williamson County Commission passed an increase in the Education Impact Fee assessed on new homes.

One of the reasons cited for passing the impact fee increase was the “BEP deficit.” More on that:

Story also cited the state’s minimum contribution the the county’s portion of the state’s Basic Education Plan formula, pointing out that the state pays approximately 40% of Williamson County Schools cost per pupil, while the county picks up the rest.

“Every child that comes in, expands that deficit in terms of how much we have to pay.”

It’s worth noting here that the Republican Comptroller of the Treasury notes Tennessee underfunds public schools by at least $500 million.

It’s also worth noting that if Phil Bredesen’s BEP 2.0 were fully-funded, Williamson County would receive at least $1.6 million more in state funds each year.

Bill Lee’s failure to address the BEP deficit is, at least in part, responsible for the Williamson County impact fee increase. Instead of adding funds to the BEP, Lee is trying to fast-track an unproven voucher scheme.

I just hope all those realtors who showed up with stickers at the Williamson County Commission will vote against the guy (Bill Lee) who made the impact fee necessary.

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White the Power

Apparently, the all-white, mostly Republican Williamson County School Board is really a front for leftist political indoctrination. At least, that’s the impression you’d get if you read a recent email sent by the Williamson County Republican Party in order to recruit candidates to run for School Board in 2020.

It seems some in the local Republican Party leadership are a little too comfortable in their white privilege. Or, they just don’t like reality. Or, the Williamson County School Board really is run by a bunch of raging leftists disguised as upper middle class white folks living in the state’s wealthiest (and most Republican) county.

If you believe this email, you might also believe Jay Sekulow’s lies about the Muslim takeover of Social Studies in Tennessee. You might also think that Eric Welch is best friends with AOC. Or that Rick Wimberly hangs out with “the Squad.”

Calm down, Williamson County.

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The Looney Letter

Williamson County Director of Schools Mike Looney, who will depart this summer for a Superintendent job in Atlanta, penned this letter to his community:

As I contemplated penning my final message as the school superintendent for Williamson County Schools, I found inspiration in Walt Whitman’s words, “Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.”

I had the great honor of interviewing for the Williamson County Schools superintendent position in the Fall of 2009. At that time, the Williamson County School Board was chaired by the ever-graceful Ms. Pat Anderson. If you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Pat, she is a must meet. She has an uncanny knack for being Southern-style, gentle and strong at the same time. She and 11 other smart, passionate and engaged school board members took a risk and hired me as WCS’s next superintendent.

Wow, that was nearly ten years ago! The Board had a common vision: advance student outcomes in an already high-performing school district.

We were relentless in our pursuit. We focused on increasing rigor in all classrooms, worked on building more effective relationships with our students and refined our curriculum to ensure student learning expectations were relevant. It worked. Our students and teachers leaned in, worked hard and our community began reaping the benefit. We struck academic gold.

For the past decade, our students, with the support of their parents and teachers, have shattered every conceivable district academic record. We have expanded arts education, won countless athletic titles and changed the trajectory of lives one student at a time. It’s been incredibly rewarding to watch it unfold and to have been a small part of it all.

This line of work isn’t for the faint of heart, as not everyone welcomed the district’s new direction. One might say that we had our moments. During the last decade, there have been thousands of vocal supporters lending a hand and at times seemingly as many fierce critics all who have taken the time to engage. Frankly, I wouldn’t have wished for it to be any other way.

Our schools are better for everyone’s involvement and for that I am deeply thankful.

Most of all, I am grateful for the students even in the times when they harassed me about snow days, didn’t study properly for exams or did something mischievous. I have loved being a small part of their lives. They’ve made me smile with joy, grit my teeth out of frustration, but most of all inspired me in indefinable ways.

I will end as any Marine would by fighting like hell to the end for this community’s children. Far too many neglected, abused and fragile children still need help in our community. Everyone knows it, but lack of funding and divisive politics continues to hold us back from making progress on these battle fronts. Schools should be accountable for results but also must receive adequate funding at all levels.

Williamson County needs state leaders who value public education and make decisions based on research and reputable sources, rather than being influenced by campaign donations from PACs or lobbyists. This community needs its elected officials to move beyond the vitriol and divisive politics of our day. Disagreement is good but not at the expense of decency.

For those who think they know better than the teacher, no you don’t. They are professionally trained. Let them teach, support them and give a little grace when all doesn’t go as planned.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV)

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