teachers

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.

Faculty claims ‘hostility, intimidation and retaliation’ at Nashville State Community College

Start of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Nashville State Community College maintains such an oppressive climate for its faculty members that it sought to monitor and interfere with efforts to ask them about it, according to a report commissioned by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Nashville State’s executives sought to surreptitiously identify which faculty members were being confidentially interviewed by investigators from Middle Tennessee State University. Several administrators, including George H. Van Allen, the college’s president, improperly sought to get access to — and interfere in the distribution of — an online survey intended solely for faculty members, the investigators’ report says.

A large share of the college’s faculty members complained of “hostility, intimidation, and retaliation” by the college’s executive leaders, and spoke of working in an atmosphere where “trust is low and fear is high,” the report says. Most, it adds, “view the trend for this negative climate as continuing to spiral downward.”

In an interview with The Tennessean President Van Allen defended his record and described his critics as a “strong minority” of faculty members. He said he had tried to get access to the survey because he was concerned about its security.

Note: For more, see the extensive Tennessean story, HERE.

Teaching of TN history faces change — for better or worse?

In an op-ed piece appearing in the News-Sentinel, Bill Carey writes that a lot of Tennessee history being taught in the state’s schools will be ignored under new social studies standards recommended by a study committee advising the State Board of Education. Cary was a member of the committee who dissented from the majority report and is the founder of Tennessee History for Kids.

Jason Roach, a Hawkins County school principal who chaired the committee, has an op-ed piece in the Commercial Appeal voicing support for the majority recommendations.

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TEA polling: Most Tennesseans don’t want school vouchers

News release from Tennessee Education Association

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennesseans strongly reject private school vouchers, according to the largest and most comprehensive polling data on the subject. TEA extensively surveyed rural, urban and suburban voters in all three Grand Divisions of the state, with an oversample of highly-likely Republican primary voters. The polls were conducted May through October of 2016.
Of the 6,510 respondents, 59.5 percent rejected private school vouchers, 29 percent approved. The two-to-one negative opinion was consistent across geographic and demographic groups. The polling margin of error is +/- 4 percent.
“I’ve rarely seen such a strong negative opinion. It is clear Tennesseans do not like or want school vouchers,” said Jim Wrye, TEA Government Relations manager. “We are a conservative state that values our local traditions and institutions. Vouchers are a radical idea that attack and weaken the foundation of our communities — our public schools.”

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Teachers protest Alexander’s backing of DeVos, ignored phone calls

About 150 people, many of them teachers, protested outside Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Nashville office Friday in a show of opposition to the Republican senator’s support for Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education, reports The Tennessean.

Educators at the protest said DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and vocal supporter of charter school expansion, is not qualified for the job. Unlike former education secretaries, DeVos has not attended, taught or held a leadership position in public schools.

DeVos, at times, was unable to answer questions about education policy and law at her confirmation hearing Jan. 17. Democrats were on the attack during the meeting, while Republicans defended DeVos, including Alexander, who said she is “on our children’s side.”

Educators said they hope Alexander will reconsider his support of DeVos.

“We’re here because we’re schoolteachers, because we’re parents,” said Jenee Peters, a sixth-grade math teacher in Washington County. “She never went to public school, her children never went to public school. She knows nothing about public school, and that was very clear during her confirmation hearings.”

… Numerous teachers said they’ve called Alexander’s offices to be met only by messages of a full voicemail box.

A spokeswoman for Alexander said in a statement his staff has answered office telephones as fast as possible, but there’s been an overwhelming number of calls, mostly from people with various opinions on President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees.

“Sen. Alexander welcomes all Tennesseans’ comments and keeps them in mind when making decisions,” the statement said.

Supremes back firing of tenured TN teacher without back pay

News release from the Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – In a case involving the dismissal of a tenured teacher, the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that the Court of Appeals’ award to the teacher of partial back pay was not authorized under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act (Tenure Act). It also held that the teacher could not appeal the timeliness of her school board hearing because she did not raise that objection to the school board.

Rogelynn Emory taught French and English in several different high schools in Memphis, Tennessee. For several years, school administrators noted that Ms. Emory exhibited unusual behavior, had difficulty managing her students, and displayed a low level of teaching skill. In late 2005, the city school system notified Ms. Emory that she was being charged with “inefficiency,” that is, teaching below the acceptable standard, and would be discharged. Under the Tenure Act, Ms. Emory demanded a hearing before the city school board.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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