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Angry legislators ditch 2018 TNReady test scores in swift, bipartisan votes

Moving swiftly Thursday amid reports of more problems with TNReady testing across the state, both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved sweeping legislation to block use of this year’s test scores from accountability systems for students, teachers, schools, and districts, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

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House committee kills bill authorizing teachers to carry guns; ‘School Safety Act’ advances

A  bill authorizing teachers to carry guns in classrooms was voted down in a House committee Tuesday after an outpouring of opposition following earlier approval in a subcommittee. Only four members of the 13-member House Education and Planning Committee had themselves recorded as voting in favor of the bill sponsored by Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) as it was defeated on a voice vote.

On the other hand, the “School Safety Act of 2018,” which would to provide more funding to hire off-duty law enforcement officers to patrol schools (HB2129, as amended) has won approval in committees of both the House and Senate. The measure, introduced originally as a caption bill, is sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Gray) and Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City).

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Bill to arm TN teachers advances; sponsor says Haslam school safety plan not enough

A controversial bill that would let designated Tennessee educators go armed in schools cleared another House hurdle Tuesday, despite concerns raised by law enforcement officials and others, reports the Times Free Press.

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Legislators eye TN teachers with guns and/or putting more police in schools

A bill that sets the stage for some teachers to carry guns in Tennessee schools cleared a House subcommittee on Wednesday on a party-line vote while a bipartisan group of lawmakers held a news conference to propose having the state pay off-duty police officers $50 an hour to patrol schools.

The proposal involving teachers with guns may be a strategy to get more professional police in the schools, reports WPLN.

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Haslam: “The message is that we can’t stop now.”

Gov. Bill Haslam gives a preview of his State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Haslam gives a preview of his State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has given this preview of his final State of the State address in a meeting with reporters at the state Capitol on Monday:


I thought I’d give a quick preview of tonight’s State of the State address. As you know it’s my last – eighth and final. I will spend some time looking back over the past seven years.

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See the gubernatorial hopefuls in action at the first televised debate

Five of the seven major candidates for governor attended the first televised debate of the campaign season last night.

Here are some pool photos of those who discussed education issues at Belmont University: Republicans Randy Boyd, Beth Harwell and Bill Lee; and Democrats Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh. Mae Beavers had been scheduled to appear, but bowed out following the death of her mother over the weekend. Fellow Republican Diane Black chose to attend other events.

From left, Republican Beth Harwell, Democrat Craig Fitzhugh. Democrat Karl Dean, Republican Bill Lee, and Republican Randy Boyd during the Gubernatorial Forum on Education at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean, Pool)

From left, Republican Beth Harwell, Democrat Craig Fitzhugh. Democrat Karl Dean, Republican Bill Lee, and Republican Randy Boyd during the Gubernatorial Forum on Education at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean, Pool)

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DeVos in TN speech: ‘I’m just getting started!’

Speaking in Nashville at the National Summit on Education Reform, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rallied education leaders to expand “school choice,” took swipes at teachers unions and Democrats, and put in a good word for her boss’s campaign to overhaul the nation’s tax structure.

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McQueen seeks $73 million increase in state education budget, not counting anticipated teacher pay raise

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen wants a third consecutive annual teacher pay raise included in the state budget next year for and new funding to help local school districts pay for Tennessee’s required but unfunded intervention program aimed at keeping struggling students from falling through the cracks, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

McQueen presented her wish list to the governor during budget hearings Tuesday at the State Capitol.

Tennessee is projecting a slowdown in the growth of tax revenue next fiscal year — about $350 million compared to $1 billion this year — but Haslam says that investing in teacher pay continues to be a priority of his two-term administration.

“We want to continue to fund teacher salaries the best we can,” he said following Tuesday’s budget presentations.

McQueen offered up $73 million in specific requests, the bulk of which would cover growth and inflationary costs associated with the state’s funding formula known as the Basic Education Program, or BEP.  The list also includes $10 million for school improvement grants for “priority schools” in the state’s bottom 5 percent, another $6 million to help charter schools pay for facilities for a second year in a row, and almost $4.5 million for the state’s reading initiative in its third year.

But she did not attach dollar amounts for her big-ticket requests like teacher pay and the unfunded program known as Response to Instruction and Intervention, or RTI. She told reporters later that her department will pound out those important details with Haslam’s administration during the months ahead before the governor presents his final spending proposal to lawmakers in February.

McQueen to DeVos: Fed education budget cuts will hurt ‘some of your biggest supporters’

In letters to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is opposing the proposed elimination of a federal program for teacher training and retention that sent $38 million to Tennessee last year, reports The Tennessean.

McQueen wrote two letters – the first in June, saying the budget cut would hurt students in public schools across the state, especially in rural areas where President Donald Trump had strong support in the 2016 election. A second letter sent Friday says 42,000 students in private schools would be hurt, too, by the elimination of Title II, part A funds in the upcoming federal budget. DeVos has been an active supporter of charter schools and school voucher programs.

She emphasized her point in an interview Friday with the USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee.

“Our tone here is: We want to make sure you understand, this is going to be very impactful for our rural counties in ways that maybe you haven’t thought through,” McQueen said. “We are at a point where these decisions will probably impact some of your biggest supporters.”

…The state recieved $38 million in Title II funds from the federal government in 2016-17, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. That money also goes to the recruitment and retention of educators.

DeVos’ office responded (to the first letter) by saying that states had not used those funds well in the past, McQueen said.

“We would disagree with that because in Tennessee we don’t believe we have misused that by any stretch of the imagination,” McQueen said in the interview.

Radio ads tout ‘new and improved’ TN testing of school kids

A statewide radio advertising campaign is underway to promote TNReady, the state’s new standardized test that students in grades 3-11 are about to take, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

The one-minute ads, which tout Tennessee’s test as “new and improved,” are voiced by Jolinea Pegues, a Trezevant High School teacher in Shelby County Schools, and Derek Voiles, the state’s 2017 Teacher of the Year from Hamblen County.

The two-week run goes through next week in conjunction with the state’s April 17-May 5 TNReady testing window. Students in grades 3-11 will test to measure their proficiency in math and English language arts.

The campaign was produced and paid for by Expect More, Achieve More, a coalition of more than 100 business, community and education organizations advocating for high K-12 academic standards in Tennessee. The effort was spearheaded by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, a Nashville-based education advocacy group founded by former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist.

This is the second year of TNReady testing, which unraveled last year with the failed rollout of Tennessee’s first online test and led Education Commissioner Candice McQueen eventually to cancel the assessment for grades 3-8. McQueen says students, parents and educators can expect a successful rollout this year under Questar, the state’s new testing company, which this week delivered printed testing materials to schools statewide. Only 25 districts have chosen to take the test online again.

Note: See also a separate Chalkbeat story on TNReady, reporting that state leaders say thing will go well this year but some educators are still anxious after last year’s “testing fiasco.” Excerpt:

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